Planning Ahead: Steps You Can Take Now To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning This Winter

Incidents of carbon monoxide (“CO”) poisoning tend to rise as the outside temperature falls and families begin using their home heating systems, fireplaces, and stoves with greater frequency.  Fuel-burning heat systems are some of the most common sources of CO leaks in a home.

It is important to remember that carbon monoxide itself is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas.  Unlike a leak involving propane or natural gas, you will not be able to detect the presence of carbon monoxide in your home using only your sense of smell.  Installation of home CO detectors is therefore imperative in order to detect the presence of CO in your home.  But what can you do to reduce the risk of CO leaks in the first place?

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “the proper installation, operation, and maintenance of fuel burning appliances in the home is the most important factor in reducing the risk of CO poisoning.” CPSC, The “Invisible” Killer, available at https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/464.pdf.

While we are just now entering the last full month of summer, August is the perfect time for Rhode Island and Massachusetts families to start scheduling annual maintenance and inspection services with reputable heating and chimney service contractors.  While performing professional maintenance and inspection services is an important first step in identifying and correcting potential hidden CO problems, here are some additional visible signs that can indicate the potential existence of a CO problem within a home:

  1. Missing or loose masonry on a chimney system
  2. Chimney or vent pipe connections that are loose or disconnected
  3. Soot or other debris falling from a chimney, fireplace, or appliance
  4. Moisture build-up inside windows
  5. Loose or missing panels on a furnace or boiler
  6. Sooting associated with a fuel-burning appliance
  7. Changes in a gas flame’s color from blue to yellow (for example, on a cook stove)

If you notice any of these signs of a potential CO problem in your home, be sure to have them professionally evaluated and, where indicated, corrected.  Additional information about how you can recognize the symptoms of potential CO poisoning, as well as how you can protect yourself and your family, is available at the following websites:

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Carbon Monoxide Information Center, available at https://www.cpsc.gov/safety-education/safety-education-centers/carbon-monoxide-information-center.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Resources, available at https://www.cdc.gov/co/default.htm.

Rhode Island Department of Health, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, available at http://www.health.ri.gov/healthrisks/poisoning/carbonmonoxide/

Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security’s Carbon Monoxide Safety Resources, available at http://www.mass.gov/eopss/agencies/dfs/osfm/pubed/fs-topics/carbon-monoxide-safety.html