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fuel oil fumes
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fuel oil fumes

A couple months ago we replaced an old oil tank in our basement with a new one.  Since then it seems a fuel oil smell has increased, at the start of each furnace cycle.  We turn the thermostat down very low at night (62, during winter in Vermont) so it hardly runs, and then each morning we turn it up to about 70 and also build a fire in the woodstove.  Our woodstove keeps the house warm enough that the furnace doesn't run all day.  Occasionally however, we will run the furnace for a half hour or so in order to heat the back area of the house and again, the fuel oil smells strongly like it does each morning when we first warm up the house.  

I know I have a very keen sense of smell, but in addition to the smell I seem to get a mild headache almost every time the furnace starts.  Are the fumes harmful to us and our toddler-aged children??  What suggestions do you have to get rid of the smell and more importantly, the fumes??  We do have a carbon monoxide detector but how do I know if it's working and/or trust it's effectiveness?  Many thanks.
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Avatar_dr_m_tn
Hello,

Your two questions:

1. Are the fumes (heating oil or # 2 fuel oil) to us and our children? The bottom-line is that we know very little about the health effects of exposure to heating oil. See below for links to CDC/ATSDR and the states of Wisconsin and Virginia websites for a discussion of the potential health effects that may result from exposure to heating oil fumes.

http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=514&tid=91 – CDC/ATSDR
http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/eh/Air/fs/Oilspill.htm - Wisconsin
http://www.vdh.state.va.us/Epidemiology/DEE/PublicHealthToxicology/documents/pdf/fueloill.PDF - Virginia

2. How do we get rid of the smell and the fumes? The first step would be to have someone evaluate the connections for a leak and to evaluate the efficiency of your furnace.

3. We do have a carbon monoxide detector but how do I know if it's working and/or trust it's effectiveness? Each type of carbon monoxide sensor has a “test button”. This can be pushed to test the electric circuitry of the device; however, this testing will not evaluate the sensitivity or level of functioning of the sensor. Each manufacturer recommends a estimated replacement date.

http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/466.html

~•~ Dr. Parks

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical or legal advice. The information presented in this posting is for patients’ education only. As always, I encourage you to see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.
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Philip D Parks, MD, MPH, MOccH, F...Blank
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