How to Protect Yourself Against the Silent Killer: Carbon Monoxide

“The silent killer.” No, it’s not a ninja wearing house slippers creeping across your bedroom carpet, shrouded in shadow. It’s carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless gas that can build up in homes when fuel-burning devices are not properly ventilated or maintained. CO is known as the silent killer because it can be fatal when inhaled over long periods of time or in high concentrations, and many people don’t recognize the symptoms of CO poisoning until it’s too late.

To protect your home and your family from the harmful effects of CO exposure, it’s important to understand why CO is so dangerous and familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of a CO problem in your home.

What makes carbon monoxide so dangerous?

Without getting too technical, what you need to know is that carbon monoxide essentially interferes with the body’s ability to intake oxygen. Oxygen is absorbed and transported through our blood by hemoglobin. CO loves to bind with hemoglobin, but it’s like a pit-bull—once it sinks its teeth in, it doesn’t want to release its grip.

CO poisoning becomes fatal when CO binds with so much hemoglobin that your blood has no remaining capacity to transport oxygen at all, and then you suffocate. The higher the CO concentration, the faster this process happens. Because CO binds so fiercely to hemoglobin, even low concentrations can poison you over time – that’s why it’s so crucial to be able to recognize the symptoms of low-level CO exposure.

What are the symptoms of CO exposure?

Physical symptoms of CO are the most important to be attuned to because even low levels of CO can cause illness and will eventually be fatal.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

  • Dull headache
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness

In confined spaces within the home, CO concentrations build up much more rapidly and can be fatal within minutes. The symptoms of low-level CO exposure may first be mistaken for the flu. The best way to differentiate CO poisoning from the flu is if you notice that your symptoms improve when you’re away from home.

A CO problem will also manifest itself in various signs around your home. Any of the following signs can indicate the presence of carbon monoxide:

  • Excess moisture on windows and walls
  • Excessive rusting on flue pipes or vent pipe
  • Smoky smells
  • Orange or yellow flames in your combustion appliances
  • Lack of upward draft in your chimney
  • Water leaking from chimney vent or flue pipe

If you have any reason to suspect that you may have a CO problem in your home, call a qualified professional immediately. To have a CO monitor installed in your home or for immediate assistance, call Bonfe today.

Skip to content