Before we get carried away, let’s set the record straight. Carbon monoxide is dangerous but it’s not something you have to constantly be watching out for, like a sneaky assassin in your favourite action flick.
However, if you do have gas appliances the key to staying safe is maintenance and care. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of the combustion of carbon based fuels. That includes gas, petrol, wood and even tobacco. Typically it is safely vented out of your home or is created in such small amounts that there’s no reason to worry. At low levels, there is no potential risk.
Unlike natural gas, which has a distinctive odour, the risk comes from leaks. Carbon monoxide presents a very serious problem if you breathe it in at higher than normal concentrations and keep breathing it in. As an odourless and colourless gas, the outcome can be fatal. Given there is a slight risk, we’ll take a look at just when carbon monoxide is dangerous to your health.
What Does Carbon Monoxide Do to the Body?
The first thing you want to know about carbon monoxide is exactly what it does to the human body. And why it’s so dangerous as a result.
Incredibly, it has 210 times more affinity than oxygen for the part of your blood that carries oxygen, haemoglobin. As a result, it’s eagerly picked up by your lungs from the bloodstream and carried through your body. The problem here is that your tissues and organs need haemoglobin to bring them oxygen, and they need it to take away carbon dioxide.
Carbon monoxide interferes with this process. It isn’t released by the haemoglobin, and so the more you breathe in, the worse this vital part of your circulatory system works. Eventually, your body is overwhelmed and your organs begin to suffer. Symptoms range from dizziness and nausea to shortness of breath, fatigue and chest pain. Long term exposure can lead to death, in the worst case.
Often the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are called flu-like, although it’s pretty clear they are far more serious. And remember, children, the elderly and even pets are more susceptible to health side effects from lower CO levels.
How Can We Monitor Carbon Monoxide?
Given the risk, it’s vital to ensure your home has some added safety precautions when gas heaters and the like are in use. When you initially have a gas appliance installed, your technician can also install a carbon monoxide detector. Much like a smoke alarm, it is an early warning sign to increased CO levels.
Another safety measure is with a regular gas appliance checkup. This is great for gas heaters and just gas pipework in general. The fittings, fixtures, seals and materials can all wear down over time. Even the flue or vent is not immune to damage. So a regular service will ensure a licensed gas fitter can run their eye over all equipment.
With timely repairs and their own carbon monoxide detection equipment, you can rest assured your home is safe. The experienced Jim’s Plumbing gas fitters can do carbon monoxide testing to make sure everything’s okay, or you can call us to install a carbon monoxide detector.
What are the Warning Signs of a Carbon Monoxide Leak?
So, you know the health side effects, but what else is there to look out for? By keeping a close eye on your appliances and heaters you could pick up some early warning signs on your own, too.
As long as your gas heater has been properly installed and isn’t very old, there isn’t a great deal to worry about. But some of the risk indicators include:
- Flames burning a cool orange rather than a hot blue
- Fluctuating flames/pilot light
- Hissing sounds from pipework
- Any visible damage on a heater, gas hot water system, oven, etc
- Increased soot or smoke, plus sooty or yellow-brown stains around a gas heater
- The smell of burning or overheating when something shouldn’t be
- Condensation on windows or glass surrounding an appliance
If you ever are in doubt about an appliance or carbon monoxide levels within your home, call a local expert.
How do you Prevent Poisoning or a Leak?
Aside from regular maintenance one of the best things you can do is safely use any gas appliance or gas hitter. Never use something like a patio heater or BBQ inside as they require adequate outdoor ventilation. Even portable gas heaters in a small room pose a risk as carbon monoxide levels can reach risky heights.
Meanwhile, it’s also wise to not keep portable gas bottles inside, so anything like a patio heater or portable BBQ really shouldn’t be indoors anyway. Common sense can truly save lives in this case.
And if you are ever truly in doubt about what gas heater or appliance can be inside, just contact a licensed gas fitter. They understand all things carbon monoxide and can provide quality advice, installation services and maintenance. Plus with guaranteed carbon monoxide testing you know that someone like Jim’s Plumbing has your back.