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Carbon Monoxide and How to Stay Safe.

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

What is carbon monoxide?

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) CO is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels used in your home including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Most fuel fired furnaces, fireplaces and water heaters use one of these types of fuel to produce heat. Also, products and equipment powered by internal combustion engines such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers, and power washers also can produce CO as well.

Information from CPSC website

Who must worry about Carbon Monoxide?

Short answer. Everyone! Know what in your home or what you use around your home that may produce carbon monoxide (CO). As a homeowner you should identify any appliance or equipment that uses a combustible fuel source to operate and ensure it is installed and operating correctly to reduce the risk of CO exposure. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), every year, at least 430 people die in the U.S. from accidental CO poisoning and approximately 50,000 people in the U.S. visit the emergency department each year due to accidental CO poisoning.

Information from the CDC website

When are carbon monoxide levels dangerous?

According to the CSPC, the health effects of CO depend on the CO concentration and length of exposure, as well as everyone’s health condition. CO concentration is measured in parts per million (ppm). Most people will not experience any symptoms from prolonged exposure to CO levels of approximately 1 to 70 ppm, but some heart patients might experience an increase in chest pain. As CO levels increase and remain above 70 ppm, symptoms become more noticeable and can include headache, fatigue, and nausea. At sustained CO concentrations above 150 to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness, and death are possible.

Information from CPSC website

What are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

According to the CSPC, initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are like the flu (but

without the fever).

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea

  • Dizziness

High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:

  • Mental confusion

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of muscular coordination

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Ultimately death

Symptom severity is related to both the CO level and the duration of exposure. For slowly

developing residential CO problems, occupants and/or physicians can mistake mild to moderate

CO poisoning symptoms for the flu, which sometimes results in tragic deaths. For rapidly

developing, high level CO exposures (e.g., associated with use of generators in residential

spaces), victims can rapidly become mentally confused, and can lose muscle control without

having first experienced milder symptoms; they will likely die if not rescued.

Information from CPSC website

How can I prevent CO poisoning?

  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.

  • Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home. Check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds leave your home immediately and call 911.

  • Seek prompt medical help if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light- headed, or nauseated.

  • Do not use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.

  • Do not run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.

  • Do not burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.

  • Do not heat your house with a gas oven.

  • Do not use a generator, pressure washer, or any gasoline-powered engine less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent.

Information from the CDC website

Why do you need a CO detector?

Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless. So, the only way to know if you have harmful levels

of carbon monoxide is to have a detector. CO detectors should not be a replacement for proper installation, use and maintenance of fuel fired appliances. If you have installed a carbon monoxide detector make sure the device is certified to the most current Underwriters Laboratory (UL) standard or International Approval Services (IAS).

Information from the EPA website

Where should I install a CO Detector?

Carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air. Detectors should be placed on a wall about 5 feet above the floor or the detector may be placed on the ceiling. You should have at least 1 CO detector in the hallway leading to each sleeping area and at least one on each floor. Do not place the detector right next to or over a fireplace or flame-producing appliance. Keep the detector out of reach of pets and children. Always read the manufactures installation recommendations to verify the best installation locations for that specific monitor.

Information from the CDC website

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