Wiarton Willie may have predicted an early spring this year, but we could still have many days of snow left. Snow is being named as the culprit in a number of scares this winter as excessive build up blocked some home heating vents and caused toxic levels of carbon monoxide to build up inside. Indoor air quality is a key part of your home or business’s healthy living environment, and carbon monoxide is known as ‘the silent killer’ for its ability to effect your indoor air quality with few warning signs.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colourless gas that has toxic effects on you and your family and pets. Because it is invisible, it can hurt you before you are even aware it has affected your indoor air quality. Your indoor air quality can be effected by carbon monoxide from many sources. Unvented kerosene or gas space heaters, leaky chimneys or furnaces, generators, gas stoves, and auto exhaust can all cause a reduction in your indoor air quality as well as create carbon monoxide in your home.
At low concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause fatigue in healthy people. At moderate concentrations you may experience angina or impaired vision, but in serious concentrations, when your indoor air quality has become seriously compromised, you may experience dizziness, headaches, or flu-like symptoms. A high concentration can be fatal. Carbon monoxide affects you by forming carboxyhemoglobin in your blood, which inhibits your oxygen intake; because it is lighter than air, compromised indoor air quality can quickly cause serious problems.
Reducing your carbon monoxide exposure can be life saving as well as improving your home’s indoor air quality. A Halifax doctor credits his carbon monoxide alarms for saving his and his family’s lives as their indoor air quality went down and carbon monoxide levels went up when a recent snow storm covered their exhaust vents. As his furnace worked to keep the house warm, their furnace began to back up, and his alarms alerted them to the growing emergency with their indoor air quality. They left their home and were able to address their venting problem in time, but it could have been much worse without carbon monoxide alarms.
The first step in improving your indoor air quality and preventing carbon monoxide poisoning is to install carbon monoxide alarms in your home, Install one on each level of your home, especially near your furnace, and change the batteries every six months so that you are alerted to any change in your indoor air quality. Keep any appliances that run on gas well adjusted and serviced – they can have other effects on your indoor air quality besides carbon monoxide poisoning, so be sure to use them to manufacturer’s specifications. Use an exhaust fan over gas stoves, and keep the flue open when your fireplace is in use. If you suspect your furnace or other gas appliance isn’t working correcting and is causing poor indoor air quality, make sure to have it inspected and tested by a qualified technician, or consider having indoor air quality tests done in your home to rule out other causes and potential concerns.
Prevention is the best weapon against carbon monoxide and other pollutants that affect your indoor air quality, and is easy to achieve by having working alarms and familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and educating your family by knowing the sources of potential leaks that could affect your indoor air quality.