There’s a reason that carbon monoxide (CO) is called “the silent killer.” You can’t see the gas, smell it or taste it, but its effects can be deadly. Even low-level exposure can pose serious health dangers. High levels of CO can quickly lead to unconscious, brain damage and even death. Every year in the United States, up to 30,000 people fall sick from accidental CO poisoning. Around 500 people die, usually at home. To keep you and your family safe in your Asheville, NC home, here’s what you need to know about carbon monoxide.

How CO Affects Human Health

The body’s red blood cells absorb CO faster than they can pick up oxygen. When there’s enough exposure to the gas, the blood cells contain so much CO that oxygen is blocked out, which damages the surrounding tissues.

CO Poisoning Danger Signs and Symptoms

Low exposure to CO can cause headaches, nausea, drowsiness, dizziness and confusion. Young children, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions are particularly sensitive to the effects of CO. Although these symptoms are often the only sign that CO is present in the air, sometimes the air will feel stale or stuffy. Chimneys or fuel-burning heaters leaking CO may or may not have a chalky white substance around vents.

Common Sources of CO

When not regularly maintained, fuel-burning fixtures like heaters, hot water heaters, gas stoves and fireplaces can generate CO as a by-product of the combustion process. These appliances are designed to vent any harmful substances safely out of your home, but if not well maintained, by-products like CO can back draft into living spaces. Other sources of CO include motor vehicles, barbeque grills, gas-powered tools and garden equipment.

Preventive Heater Maintenance

Because heaters are often housed in infrequently used spaces like attics and basements, it’s critical to have them serviced regularly by a qualified HVAC professional to ensure safe operation. Without regular maintenance, the by-products created during the combustion process can corrode parts and leak CO without anyone being aware of the deadly gas. CO can seep into living spaces under doors or through the ductwork of a central heating system. Even more alarming, a recent study conducted at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle found that CO easily passes through drywall or gypsum wall boards.

Preventive Measures

At Gentry Heating, our air quality testing services can detect the presence of CO anywhere in your home. We also install smoke and CO detectors that will sound an alert whenever smoke, fire or CO is detected. The detectors work by measuring CO levels over time and alerting you when the gas reaches unsafe levels. Interconnected systems will sound an alarm throughout your home when one unit detects the presence of the deadly gas. To learn more about the dangers of CO, to schedule heater maintenance service or to arrange for a CO detector installation, contact the experts at Gentry Heating today.