The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide in Your Home

Recognizing and remedying the dangers of possible carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. Includes information on identifying problem areas of accumulating CO and venting information for built-up CO gases.


| November/December 1988



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As you'll soon learn, there are many factors that can conspire to foul indoor air, but the root of the problem—the basic design rule that has changed—is that modern houses are prone to operate at lower air pressure than older ones.


ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Recognizing and remedying a largely unrecognized—and potentially deadly—form of indoor air pollution, carbon monoxide. 

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide in Your Home

HOW ABOUT COZYING UP TO THE fire for a few minutes for a bedtime story? After all, you deserve to put your bunions up after a full day of insulating, weatherstripping, hauling firewood and installing new storm windows. My, but isn't it satisfying to feel ready for winter? And the signs of approaching cold are unmistakable. The sky was so blue and the air so crisp today that you were tempted to look for stars at noon. Now, as the sun nuzzles the ridge line, the inevitable chill is settling in. It'll probably drop into the teens tonight, so the timing for the season's first fire couldn't be better.

Flames roll against the burned-clean back wall of firebrick; shadows play from a light too subtle to be electrical; the dog—settled at the foot of the hearth—sighs. Today's paper is on the end table, but the firelight is a little too dim to read by, and a lamp would spoil the mood. Besides, the fire is entertainment enough—especially for one who wants so little to move even a single muscle.

Eyelids grow heavy, and soon your chin is bouncing off' your chest. On the edge of a snooze, you have a passing thought about taking care of the fire and closing the window you cracked when you lit it. But there's still too much flame to close the damper. And the window? No matter, the new retention head-burner furnace will kick in and make up for the heat lost.

Comforted, you fall asleep—for the last time.

Terminal Cabin Fever

A melodramatic story? Perhaps, but the scene it portrays isn't all that unusual. According to Jim White, an engineer with the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation Research Division, around 220 North Americans die each year in pretty much the way just described from carbon monoxide poisoning. Other scientists, such as Joseph Lstiburek, of Building Energy Corporation, Toronto, suggest that the toll may actually be much higher—that hundreds more carbon monoxide-induced deaths are being incorrectly attributed.





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