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Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Weather experts have predicted an upcoming winter just as frigid as last year’s winter, so everyone has started thinking about ways to stay warm. For many homeowners in western Colorado, staying warm involves lighting the fireplace or wood stove. Along with the precious heat it provides, having a fireplace comes with maintenance responsibilities to ensure everyone in the house can safely enjoy that heat. Without proper care of the fireplace and chimney, the safety of the home and family is at risk. Of all the potential hazards of a fireplace or chimney in disrepair, one of the most dangerous is the little, invisible gas known as carbon monoxide.

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Carbon monoxide, a tiny and insidious molecule, forms in large concentrations as a result of combustion. Simply put, any time a material burns, carbon monoxide is always a product. These burned materials can range from fireplaces to wood stoves, car exhaust, charcoal grills, and even propane lanterns. As a result, health experts strongly discourage grilling inside or running a vehicle in the garage with the door closed. Depending on the size of the fire, carbon monoxide can fill a room in minutes, and you might never recognize it. Without a scent, taste or color, carbon monoxide is undetectable without the help of a special carbon monoxide detector.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can set in very quickly once the concentration of carbon monoxide in the room reaches a certain point. As you inhale carbon monoxide, it takes the place of oxygen in your body, meaning you start to asphyxiate. Initial signs of poisoning mirror other illnesses and can include difficulty breathing, dizziness and nausea. Without movement to an outdoor space with clean air, the signs progress to loss of consciousness, coma and even death. Because of the quick onset and easily mistaken symptoms, people often cannot leave the area in time.

While the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning are real and disturbing, they do not need to affect you and your family. Taking proper care of the fireplace and chimney goes a long way toward keeping everyone safe. For instance, having the fireplace inspected and swept regularly can keep obstructions from backing the poisonous gas up into your home. Anything from animal nests to creosote buildup can cause an obstruction, but a regular sweep and inspection takes care of the problem.

Carbon monoxide is highly hazardous and no cure or immunity is currently known. You can protect your family from the hidden danger though, and all it takes is a yearly sweep. Make that easy phone call to your local chimney expert to schedule a chimney sweep and inspection before winter gets into full swing. If you live in western Colorado, contact Bulldog Chimney Sweeps for a professional consultation.