One of the hazards of using modern appliances, especially those that burn fuel, is the byproducts that they create. Part of the safety message of the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) warns against chimney neglect that can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Who Is At Risk?
Anyone who is exposed to carbon monoxide is at risk of serious health hazards and death, though children and elderly people are most adversely affected. Carbon monoxide is naturally released when fuel like wood or gas is burned. CO poisoning often occurs due to improper use of heat appliances, improper ventilation, and general neglect of heat systems.
Signs and Symptoms
Carbon monoxide poisoning is often overlooked because the symptoms are similar to those caused by the flu: headache, dizziness, irritability, confusion, nausea/vomiting, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. If exposure is prolonged the symptoms gradually worsen to include convulsions, seizures, coma, and death. These serious outcomes occur because carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that shuts down an individual’s organs. Depending on how serious the leak is the reaction of the body can be sudden or gradual.
Prevention is Key
The best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to properly maintain the fireplace and chimney system. Scheduling a regular chimney sweep and an annual chimney inspection is the first step to chimney safety. It’s at these vital appointments that a certified expert gets a look at the chimney system, can assess damage, and plan for repairs.
Chimney Problems that Lead to CO Intrusion:
- Damaged Chimney Liner.
The liner functions as a barrier, keeping harmful gases from escaping the porous masonry and allowing it into the home. A damaged liner means there is a chance carbon monoxide will penetrate the masonry and cause slow exposure to the family. This type of slow CO exposure causes illness and organ damage that is irreversible and often dismissed as the flu or common cold.
- A Smoky Chimney.
Either from an obstruction, or general inefficiencies, the chimney sometimes stops venting the fire’s byproducts as it should. When your fireplace is back-filling smoke into your home, it is sending carbon monoxide into your home as well. This can be prevented by keeping the chimney well-maintained, troubleshooting your draft problems, and using your damper properly.
- Improper Ventilation.
Gas appliances should be vented unless they are rated for indoor use without ventilation (unvented gas log sets, for example). Also, if the chimney flue is not the right size for the appliance, it won’t vent properly and the carbon monoxide will linger and eventually sink into the home with the rest of the unvented air from your fire.
Invest in Your Home, Invest in Your Health
Prevent your home and family from being exposed to carbon monoxide intrusion. Schedule routine maintenance that may save your family from serious health hazards and death. Purchase and install a carbon monoxide detector. Ask your chimney sweep which is the best brand to use and check it regularly once it’s installed.
Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep strives to keep all of our customers in Boston, North Shore, and Portland areas safe, warm, and happy year-round. This starts with preventing CO poisoning. For more information contact one of our chimney experts today.