Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. Breathing high levels of CO can be fatal. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, over 500 people in the U.S. die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Sources of carbon monoxide (CO) include:
- Using the oven as heater
- Air leaks from furnaces, water heaters or fireplaces
- Ventless heaters, fireplaces or stoves
- Car exhaust from attached garages
- Backdraft: an explosive surge in a fire produced by the sudden mixing of air with other combustible gases. It can occur in your home when there are duct leaks in the heating system, or when exhaust ventilation, such as from a clothes dryer or kitchen or bathroom exhaust fan, are greater than air replacement through infiltration or other means.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be similar to allergies or the flu, and it may be misdiagnosed as a migraine headache, stroke, food poisoning, or heart disease. The effects are more serious for infants and people with certain health conditions such as anemia, lung disease, or heart disease.
At low concentrations:
- Fatigue in healthy people
- Chest pain in people with heart disease
At high concentrations:
- Impaired vision and coordination
- Headaches, dizziness and confusion
- Nausea and reduced brain function
Carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable. Take the following steps to keep you and your family safe:
- Get your fuel burning appliances serviced twice a year to ensure and that they are working properly.
- Get your heating system and chimneys inspected each year.
- Replace dirty air filters on heating and cooling systems.
- During winter months, frequently check that vents, flues and chimneys are not blocked by snow or ice.
- Choose vented appliances when possible.
- Hire a professional to install fuel burning appliances
- Do not use a gas range or oven to heat your home.
- Never run your car in a closed garage.
- Never run a generator, power washer or any diesel or gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, an enclosed structure or near open windows.
- Keep your home well ventilated. Install ventilation for combustion appliances and consider installing air exchanges or air conditioning if your home is tightly sealed.
- Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, camping lantern or portable stove inside your home, tent or camper.
- Call Springfield Inspectional Services (413-736-3111) or the Fire Department (413-787-6410) if you have concerns about the combustion appliances in your home.
Install carbon monoxide detectors:
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper installation.
- Place near sleeping areas. There should be a carbon monoxide detector within 10 feet of every bedroom door.
- Put one on every level of your home for extra protection, including habitable portions of basements and attics.
- Do not install directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances.
- Combination detectors (ionization smoke and carbon monoxide detector) should be more than 20 feet away from a kitchen or bathroom containing a bathtub or shower due to nuisance alarms from steam and cooking smoke. Combination detectors (photoelectric smoke and carbon monoxide detector) can be used anywhere.
- Test the alarm every six months and replace the batteries or unit as needed. As a helpful hint, replace your batteries when you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time.
Carbon Monoxide Alarm Requirements in Massachusetts:
Carbon monoxide alarms are required in all residences that have either fossil fuel burning equipment (such as oil or gas furnaces, wood or gas fireplaces, gas stove, gas clothes dryer, etc.) or an attached enclosed garage. When a property is being sold, the Springfield Fire Department must inspect the residence for carbon monoxide alarm and smoke detector compliance. If the inspection is successful, you will be issued a Certificate of Compliance.
The actual requirements vary depending on the number of units in a property and when the property was built (or last renovated). For more information click here to review the MA Department of Fire Services Guide to Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Requirements, or contact the Springfield Fire Department.
Change your clock, change your battery!