How A Gas Water Heater Could Accidentally Poison Your Family

It was a close call.

A family of 3 almost died due to a deadly buildup of carbon monoxide fumes (an invisible, odorless, poisonous gas) inside their home.

Luckily, firefighters dragged the family to fresh air just in time.

What was the cause of the deadly gas?

According to Fire Chief Kevin Farrell, the carbon monoxide build-up was caused by a leaky hot water heater.

Because of the leak, the water heater kept running to keep up with the flow of water. Essentially, this would be the same as if a car engine was left running in a garage for several hours.

This deadly situation isn’t an isolated incident, either.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.”

How carbon monoxide kills

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisons you by preventing your body from getting enough oxygen. This goes on till you die of asphyxiation.

When you breathe in CO molecules, they attach to hemoglobin, the molecule that carries oxygen in the blood. The more CO you breathe in, the more CO attaches to hemoglobin, preventing oxygen from being delivered to your body.

Basically, if hemoglobin was a taxi cab, CO would be taking all the cab seats so oxygen couldn’t get a ride around your body. As a result, cells die.

So how can you keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning?

How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Atlanta Gas Light suggests that you do two things:

  1. Install a carbon monoxide detector: Had the family installed a CO detector, they would have been alarmed to the dangerous carbon monoxide buildup sooner—far before it threatened their lives.
  2. Have an HVAC technician check your heating equipment annually: Get a technician to check your your gas water heater AND your gas furnace annually as part of a maintenance plan.

Maintenance not only keeps your heating systems running efficiently but can also help prevent breakdowns and dangerous carbon monoxide leaks.

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