August 2008
Silent Dangers: Know the Differences

Both carbon monoxide (CO) and natural gas leaks are dangerous and potentially deadly silent threats that can occur in your home. But it's easy to get the two confused - their causes, prevention and threats. Here's what you need to know.

  Carbon Monoxide Natural Gas Leak
What is it? An odorless, and potentially deadly gas. A leak in a natural gas pipeline or appliance.
Where does it come from? It can come from a number of sources including incomplete combustion of a gas appliance. It often occurs when a pipe is damaged during outdoor digging or if an appliance is improperly hooked up.
Is it an immediate danger? Yes Yes
What are the dangers? Carbon monoxide displaces oxygen in the blood, making it difficult to breathe, and, ultimately, can be fatal. Natural gas is extremely flammable and poses a risk for fire or explosions.
How do I know when it is present? A working CO detector should alert you if dangerous levels of CO are present in the house. Some symptoms may also be present. You may smell the gas.
What does it smell like? It doesn’t have a scent – it’s odorless. A chemical called mercaptan is added to give it a rotten egg scent, which makes it easier to detect.
What are the symptoms? Symptoms of CO poisoning can include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, stinging eyes, sleepiness and heart flutters. However, symptoms are rare. There are no symptoms.
What do I do if I suspect it? Go outside and call 911 immediately if you believe there is CO in your home. Do not go back in until you have been told that it is safe to do so and the source of the CO has been eliminated or repaired.

Do not use phones, turn on lights or appliances, smoke or do anything that might create a source of ignition. Get out of the building or area and then call Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) when you are within a safe distance.
Who do I call? Call 911 immediately, then a licensed contractor to fix the problem. Call AGL at 770/907-4231 inside Metro Atlanta or 877/427-4321 outside Metro Atlanta. If your family or home is in danger, call 911.
How can I prevent it? Install a CO detector in your home and be sure it is in working condition. Also, don’t forget to have your gas appliance inspected and maintained annually. Be sure all gas appliances are properly installed and maintained. If you plan on digging in your yard, be sure to call 811 before you begin your project.
Are detectors readily available? Yes, they can be purchased at any home improvement store. Not for residential use. Many HVAC contractors have a tool they can use to detect gas leaks.

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