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’Tis the Season ... to Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector in Your Home

Release Date: 12/3/2001
Contact Information: Donna Heron, (215) 814-5113

Donna Heron, (215) 814-5113

PHILADELPHIA – Every year, poisonous gas-backup from a clogged chimney or defective furnace kills 700 Americans.

The name of this invisible, odorless killer is carbon monoxide. Most people know it as the poisonous gas that comes out of a car’s exhaust pipe. But all fuel-burning appliances can produce it including furnaces, water heaters, boilers, space heaters, clothes dryers, stoves, ovens, fireplaces and wood stoves.

And as we close up our houses for the winter heating season, the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning increases from these otherwise safe sources gone bad.

Even the “experts” aren’t immune from risk. On Nov. 23 four Philadelphia firefighters managed to escape with their lives from their own firehouse because of the quick-thinking of a fellow firefighter who was the night watchman-on-duty. After feeling ill himself, the watchman dragged three unconscious comrades outside to safety. The carbon monoxite poisoning resulted from a chimney blockage caused after workmen, making roof repairs, inadvertently dropped bricks into the building’s chimney, clogging the exhaust system.

Unfortunately, a 12-year-old Virginia boy and his pet bird weren’t so lucky. The seventh grader died Nov. 16 when carbon monoxide fumes from a portable generator, located outside the home, infiltrated his bedroom.

The insidious thing about carbon monoxide is that it replaces oxygen in the blood, so you can die from a high concentration in a short period of time. If you are lucky enough to realize what’s happening, find fresh air immediately -- get yourself and your family outdoors.

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct caused by the incomplete combustion of many common fuels. At low levels, carbon monoxide causes fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, increased chest pain in people with heart disease, confusion and disorientation. Because the chemical is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, and some of the symptoms are similar to common illnesses like a cold or the flu, the effects may not be recognized until it is too late.

It is surprisingly easy to protect yourself and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning. A good beginning is an inexpensive carbon monoxide detector -- home models retail for under $40 at any hardware or home improvement store.

Other prevention safeguards include:

– Get a regular furnace and chimney inspection.

      – Make sure that all combustion appliances are properly installed, well-maintained, and checked yearly for safe operation.
      – Do not use oven and gas ranges to heat your house.
      – Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.
      – Do not use unvented kerosene or gas space heaters except in well-ventilated rooms.
      – Use a carbon monoxide detector which meets Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. Standards and has a long-term warranty, and is easily self-tested and reset to ensure proper function.

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