When fuel is burned, the combustion process produces several gases. One of the gases is carbon monoxide, which most people are familiar with due to the dangers of inhaling carbon monoxide. However, many people don't realize that nitrogen dioxide is another dangerous gas that is also produced during combustion.
If your home has a furnace that operates with heating oil and/or you have gas-operated appliances, it's very important that you know about nitrogen dioxide because it can cause serious illnesses in you and your family members. Here's what you need to know about nitrogen dioxide and how to prevent it in your home.
Where Does Nitrogen Dioxide Come From?
Nitrogen oxide is produced when fuel of any type is burned, such as oil, wood, propane, gasoline, and diesel. The completed combustion produces nitrogen dioxide. This is a bit different from how carbon monoxide is produced. Carbon monoxide is made when the combustion process is not completed, such as when the furnace shuts off too soon and the oil did not combust. These gases are supposed to escape through a vent. Therefore, you'll want to make sure the vents of your combustible furnace and appliances are not blocked.
What Are the Health Risks of Nitrogen Dioxide?
Nitrogen dioxide irritates the eyes, nose, and throat, which can lead to breathing problems in people with asthma and other lung conditions, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). These symptoms are typical when nitrogen dioxide is in low concentration and/or exposure has been limited. Obviously, health risks are more troubling when there's more of the dangerous gas in the air and/or there's been a prolonged exposure.
Symptoms of nitrogen dioxide poisoning and toxicity can include headache, abdominal pain and nausea. The person may choke and have shortness of breath. As the toxicity levels increase, the person may begin breathing rapidly and their heart rate may increase. A reduction in the amount of oxygen in their body could result in their fingers and toes turning blue.
- If you or a loved one has symptoms of poisoning and toxicity, go to the nearest ER as quickly as possible for treatment.
- If you or someone in your household has unexplained breathing problems and/or irritation of their eyes, nose, and throat, leave the house immediately for fresh air and call an HVAC service.
Treatment for poisoning and toxicity will likely include oxygen treatment, which could be through mechanical ventilation or incubation in severe cases.
Is Nitrogen Dioxide Detectable by Human Senses?
In high concentrations, nitrogen dioxide has a reddish-brown color and a strong, pungent odor. However, the color and odor are undetectable when the gas is in low concentrations.
But just because you can't smell it doesn't mean it's not at a dangerous level. Prolonged exposure to nitrogen dioxide, even at minuscule amounts, can cause serious health implications. Also, the odor from nitrogen dioxide can paralyze your olfactory nerves, similar to how you get so used to an odor that you no longer smell it.
Are there Nitrogen Dioxide Detectors Available?
Similar to carbon monoxide detectors, there are nitrogen dioxide detectors available to install in homes that have appliances and furnaces that use combustible fuel sources. It's a good idea to install these devices near the sleeping areas of the home as well as near the furnace and any appliances that operate with combustible fuel.
In conclusion, nitrogen dioxide and other dangerous gases are why it's crucially important to make sure your furnace and fuel-consuming appliances are vented to the outdoors. To make sure your furnace is properly ventilated, hire an HVAC service to conduct a test. If the HVAC service determines that the furnace has good ventilation, call an appliance repair service to check the vents from the appliances in your home.
For more information, contact a company like Shakley Mechanical Inc.