Sick Home Syndrome and Your Chimney

Your fireplace is the focal point of your home and the chimney is a permanent fixture. Time and regular use can lead to frustrating odors and even pollution in the home. When the chimney isn’t properly ventilated due to obstruction in the flue or a drop in efficiency, your home can be filled with particulate pollutants, harmful gases, and stagnant, stinky air. In order to prevent your chimney and fireplace from becoming a bother this summer and later when burning season returns, call in the professionals now.

What is Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)?mini house model with red stethoscope around it

Sick Building Syndrome, or SBS, is an actual medical condition in which all the people in a building suffer from the same symptoms caused by the building itself. In some cases, the occurrence of symptoms in all the building’s inhabitants is the only way the illness is connected to the building, and corrected. SBS may be caused by a minor smoke problem, leading to allergies and throat irritation. Other, more serious problems such as mold or bacterial growth and even carbon monoxide poisoning can also occur.

Who is at Risk?

When it comes to SBS, everyone who resides in the building is at risk when the building itself is the problem. Symptoms are most commonly caused by inadequate ventilation, deteriorating fiberglass duct liners, chemical contaminants, biological contaminants, fan coils, traffic noise, poor lighting, and urban pollution. Like any illness, there may be some who are not affected at all. Those most at risk are young children and older adults as well as pregnant women. Some conditions can be serious and life-threatening and should be reported to the doctor immediately. You can prevent your family from becoming ill by maintaining your home properly and repairing problems right away.

Carbon Monoxide Danger

The most serious cause of SBS is carbon monoxide exposure. A slow or fast leak can lead to organ damage, organ failure, and death, and it’s a danger that can be avoided. Don’t run gas-powered tools indoors—even in the garage. Open the garage before starting your car, and have your gas-powered appliance serviced regularly to prevent CO leaks. Additionally, you should have a CO detector in your home, installed on each level, and checked monthly. Finally, pay attention to signs and symptoms which affect everyone in the home. Symptoms of CO poisoning are often confused with common cold and flu or even psychiatric or neurological problems.

Professional Care and Preventative Services

The best way to prevent Sick Building Syndrome from affecting your family is to prevent your home from becoming sick! Schedule chimney sweeps regularly so that your chimney system will be professionally cleaned from top to bottom. Scheduling inspections annually will give a professional a chance to detect hazards before they put your family at risk.

Call and schedule your appointment with Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep today at 617-469-4528.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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.

Carbon Monoxide Dangers

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that can cause poisoning when you are exposed to it. It is a particularly dangerous threat because it is odorless, colorless and otherwise undetectable to the naked eye. When you are exposed to carbon monoxide you inhale the fumes, which prevents oxygen from reaching your organs. The most important thing you can do to protect you and your family from carbon monoxide dangers is to prevent exposure in the first place.


How Does Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Occur?

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs in several ways, but in residential homes the most common way is through the misuse of heating appliances. In homes where wood-burning heating appliances are used, by-products can be left behind in chimneys. Soot, animal debris and flaked off masonry can all lead to dangerous toxins being release inside the home. Additionally, homes that aren’t well-ventilated can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning because there isn’t efficient air-flow while heating appliances are in use. Lastly, misuse of heating appliances can lead to poisoning, especially if inappropriate materials are being used or the operator doesn’t understand all components of the appliance.

Damaged Chimneys Can Lead To Carbon Monoxide Dangers

In homes where chimneys are older or have not been properly maintained chimneys can become blocked or rusted and this can result in carbon monoxide and other toxins being released into the air. Backdrafting, a common occurrence when chimney dampers and flues are not operating properly, can also lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Symptoms Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

If you suspect you or someone in your home is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, look for these common symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Loss of vision
  • Loss of consciousness

While these symptoms may seem subtle, they are life threatening. If you see any of these symptoms, remove everyone from the area and get emergency medical care immediately.

Luckily for homeowners, there are ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning including:

  • Invest in a carbon monoxide detector that will alert you if the dangerous gas is detected.
  • Never use stand-alone heating appliances like space heaters in small, enclosed areas.
  • Only use wood-burning appliances in well-ventilated areas.
  • Make sure you understand how to operate ALL components of your chimney before you light your first fire.
  • Only burn appropriate, chemical and paint free wood in your wood-burning appliance.
  • Inspect your heating equipment before use to make sure it is operating properly.

The single most important thing you can do as a homeowner is have your chimney professionally swept and inspected at least once a year. Hire a professional and experienced chimney sweeping company like Billy Sweet Chimney Sweep serving the Boston, North Shore and Portland areas to inspect, repair and if necessary, rebuild your chimney. Having an airtight chimney with a working damper and flue is the best way to prevent carbon monoxide build-up from your heating system. Our certified chimney sweeps are ready to inspect your chimneys and recommend any necessary add-ons or repairs. Contact the best in chimney sweeping to keep your home free of carbon monoxide dangers.