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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Home: How It Can Happen and What Families Can Do

When a fuel-burning appliance works inefficiently, it can produce too much carbon monoxide (CO). This is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause serious illness and death. Every year, at least 430 people in the United States die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn how you can protect your family from this health risk.

What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is produced when products containing carbon or natural gas burn. Burning wood, charcoal, propane and gas all create carbon monoxide. If an appliance does not burn fuel completely, it can produce an excessive amount of CO. In an enclosed space, these toxic fumes can build up. If people are in the home or building, they can breathe in enough CO for it to replace oxygen in the blood. This lack of oxygen can lead to tissue damage, organ damage and death.

The most common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, weakness, blurred vision, drowsiness, confusion, shortness of breath, chest pain and loss of consciousness. If carbon monoxide poisoning continues, it can cause brain damage, organ damage, coma and death. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, exit the area and get fresh air immediately. Then, seek medical care. In an emergency, such as if someone is unconscious, dial 911. 

How Does Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Happen?

Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen right at home if an appliance is faulty, defective or in need of repairs. One of the most common sources, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, is unvented space heaters. This type of space heater does not have a chimney to release fumes and exhaust to the outdoors. Although many ventless heaters have oxygen depletion sensors, they can malfunction and fail to shut the heater off.

Incomplete combustion by a fuel-burning appliance, such as a heater, grill, furnace, oven, or motor (including a motor vehicle) could release carbon monoxide into your home or garage. If a vent is blocked or there are no windows, this can lead to CO poisoning. In a well-ventilated area, carbon monoxide poisoning typically is not a high risk. If not properly ventilated, however, the CO levels can increase until they deplete too much oxygen in the room and cause illnesses. 

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Home

Being aware of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is the first step in keeping your family safe. Tips you can follow to prevent CO poisoning include:

  • Do not heat your home with a gas range or an oven. If you are using a charcoal grill or propane-burning appliance to cook, don’t use it in an enclosed space.
  • Keep all fuel-burning appliances properly maintained. If there is an appliance you haven’t used in a while, such as a space heater, get it looked at by a professional before turning it on.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors and change the batteries regularly. Put the detectors within 10 feet of each bedroom door. Replace them every five to six years.
  • Do not use any old, outdated, broken or poorly maintained fuel-burning appliance, especially in an enclosed space.

Can You File a Claim for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

If you suffer carbon monoxide poisoning at home, you may be able to hold one or more parties financially responsible (liable). For example, if a defective appliance emitted too much CO, you may be able to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer or distributor. If you rent your home, the owner of the property or your landlord may be held liable for a dangerous premises. Talk to a carbon monoxide attorney to discuss your ability to file a carbon monoxide poisoning claim in Colorado.

It is the property owner’s responsibility to ensure that appliances such as gas ovens and furnaces are working correctly, as well as to supply you with a working carbon monoxide detector. Failing to do so could give you grounds to file a personal injury claim against the owner in pursuit of financial compensation for your illness, medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. To find out if you have grounds for a claim for carbon monoxide poisoning, contact Cannon Law for a free consultation.