Silent, But Deadly
Carbon monoxide poison is deadly, and not just because it’s silent—it is also tasteless and odorless, which makes it very difficult to detect. The CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) estimates that about 170 people in the United States die from carbon monoxide poisoning annually and that thousands enter emergency rooms to be treated for it. Symptoms of mild poisoning can include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headache and shortness of breath. Severe poisoning can come on suddenly and involves loss of muscle control, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. Severe cases often result in death if not treated immediately. Once carbon monoxide enters the body, it travels everywhere in the system. Children are especially vulnerable.
So where does carbon monoxide come from? Unfortunately, your fireplace can be a culprit. Carbon monoxide is produced by incomplete combustion of fuels that range anywhere from wood or coal to gases like propane, kerosene, oils and natural gas. That basically means that if an appliance is not burning its fuel correctly and completely, carbon monoxide is produced. If that appliance is not properly exhausted, then carbon monoxide can be entering and filling your home. This applies to both wood-burning fireplaces or gas log inserts.
But wait—before you shut down your fireplace for good to avoid this invisible threat, you should know that there are ways to practice safety through regular maintenance. In fact, the CSPC recommends first and foremost that all fuel-burning appliances be installed, then inspected and cleaned annually by a certified professional. This will protect you against a number of issues and will also contribute to the efficiency of your fireplace.
Another thing you can do to reduce the amount of carbon monoxide produced by your wood fireplace is to burn small fires with dry, seasoned hardwood at high temperatures. Stoking the fire frequently can help the heat level.
There’s no need to fear carbon monoxide when you’re enjoying a fire if you keep up with annual inspections and cleanings. We are certified by the CSIA to inspect and clean your fireplace and chimney point-by-point to ensure that it is properly exhausted and safe for use. If you’re anywhere in the Louisville area, give us a call at 502-435-2364.