Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in October 2018 and has been revised to reflect industry updates.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can severely damage the human nervous and respiratory systems, as well as the brain and heart. It can sometimes even be fatal, since it deprives the body of oxygen, a vital nutrient critical to proper body functions.
Carbon monoxide poisoning poses a significant health risk to both those living in residential homes and those working in commercial buildings, especially when it's cold outside and people seek additional sources of warmth.
According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “During 2010–2015, a total of 2,244 deaths resulted from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, with the highest numbers of deaths each year occurring in winter months. In 2015, a total of 393 deaths resulting from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning occurred, with 36% of the deaths occurring in December, January, or February.”
In 2018, the CDC reported: “More than 400 people in the U.S. die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning every year. More than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 others are hospitalized.”
Consequently, knowing what could potentially expose a person to this colorless, odorless and tasteless gas is essential.
Yes, gas fireplaces are one potential cause of carbon monoxide poisoning.
While there are many potential sources of such exposure, including certain appliances and devices, motor vehicles and wood stoves, gas fireplaces are a common culprit to be aware of.
Remember, carbon dioxide is a byproduct of the oxidation process occurring within the complete combustion of fossil fuels, which contain elemental carbon and hydrogen. An improperly maintained or ventilated gas fireplace, however, can result in incomplete combustion, creating carbon monoxide, and causing this toxic gas to linger—putting those inside at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Several indications of carbon monoxide poisoning, whether from gas fireplaces or other sources, include, but are not limited to:
- Shortness of Breath
- Chest Pain
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), a nonprofit with the mission of eliminating preventable deaths at work, in homes, and communities: If exposure is prolonged, victims could even experience:
- Mental Confusion
- Loss of Muscular Coordination
- Loss of Consciousness
It’s important to note that carbon monoxide poisoning can sometimes be confused for the flu, since both can share similar symptoms, depending on the length and duration of exposure. If you think you or someone you know has suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning, contact a medical professional immediately.
If you have a gas fireplace in your home, keep these precautions in mind:
Get Your Fireplace Inspected Every Year
Besides properly cleaning your fireplace yourself on a regular basis, it’s also critical to hire a licensed and trained inspector to evaluate its condition, as well as the chimney. This way, any issues that could cause you or your loved ones harm will be identified and remedied.
For example, the inspector will make sure the vents aren’t blocked—an important task, since poor ventilation can trap carbon monoxide, as aforementioned. He or she will also check for any damaged or dirty parts that need to be addressed. Broken fireplace doors and clogged starters are two other red flags the inspector will keep an eye out for.
Checking for carbon monoxide is another, bringing us to our next point.
An improperly maintained or ventilated gas fireplace, however, can result in incomplete combustion, creating carbon monoxide, and causing this toxic gas to linger.
Invest in an Effective Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detector
Having a smoke and carbon monoxide detector installed in your home is another step to safeguarding it against this deadly gas. A detector will not only alert you if carbon monoxide is present, but whether any smoke is, too—also protecting against fires.
Consumer product protection agency the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), warns that a beeping carbon monoxide alarm must never be ignored, even if it’s indicating a low battery or low charge, since both could cause device malfunction.
Furthermore, the security company supplying the smoke and carbon monoxide detector may also provide constant alarm monitoring, alerting you and your loved ones of any carbon monoxide or smoke in your home, as well as the authorities.
With the increasing popularity of smart home security, many providers will connect your smoke and carbon monoxide monitor right to the security system, for real-time mobile app alerts. This way, you have peace of mind your loved ones and property will be safeguarded 24-7 with monitoring and subsequent alerts.
Don’t Forget About Your Chimney
Your chimney should be regularly inspected and swept so it’s clean and absent of obstructions and damage. If not maintained properly, a blocked chimney could lead to carbon monoxide exposure from buildup of combustible gases.
According to chimney repair company Northeastern Chimney LLC., consult a professional immediately if you notice any (or all of) the following issues: water streaking or rusting on your chimney or vent, missing or loose furnace panels, soot buildup, disconnected or loose connections in the vent or chimney, loose chimney masonry, and a decrease in available hot water.
Remaining Vigilant Is Key
Implementing the aforementioned tips can ensure your home or business receives the highest level of protection when it comes to gas fireplace safety. It’s also wise to consult a professional security company that can provide tools and education for further guidance.
General Security provides smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and a variety of fire safety systems, services, and residential security systems, to homeowners in various parts of New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida. Request a quote from us today to find out what we can do for you.
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