Carbon Monoxide Facts

Carbon Monoxide Facts

Carbon Monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Carbon Monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can not be seen or heard. It is also referred to as "The Silent Killer".


Unintentional Carbon Monoxide (CO) exposure accounted for an estimated 15,000 emergency department visits and 500 unintentional deaths in the United States between the years of 1999-2004. The rates were highest among adults over the age of 65, men, non-hispanic whites and non-hispanic blacks. The average number of deaths are highest in the month of January.



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Signs and Symptoms

Carbon Monoxide can have many different symptoms and signs. High risk groups include infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and anyone with a previous history of cardiac insufficiency or chronic obstructive lung disease. Children are more susceptible than adults. Several members of the family may have the same symptoms, and most do not suspect CO poisoning until major symptoms appear.


The following are signs and symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue or Weakness
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Confusion or Memory Loss
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Vertigo or Uncoordinated
  • Abnormal Reflexes
  • Difficulty in breathing or chest pain
  • Brain swelling caused by lack of oxygen
  • Convulsions and/or seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

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Possible Sources ofCarbon Monoxide

Furnaces, Boilers and Water Heaters

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Roll out, or flames and gases coming out from the front side of heating equipment, is unsafe! Pictured here, signs of roll out have discolored the heat exchanger face, and excessive Carbon Monoxide was present in the home. 

Garages

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Most people start up their vehicle, pull it out of the garage, and shut the door immediately. When they get back home, the garage door opens, the vehicle pulls back in and the door is shut right away. They enter the home through an interior door and allow the fuel and gases from the vehicle exhaust system to enter their home. Automobile exhaust has the greatest amount of Carbon Monoxide! Mixed with fuel gases and other vehicle issues, this causes a big deal!

Tobacco Smoke

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Actively Smoking a cigar or cigarette in a smoke filled room can produce up to 50 times the maximum allowed amount of Carbon Monoxide to be considered safe. Please see our attached exposure limits page.

Radon Systems Issues

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When the weather gets cold out, and you rodent friends from outside need a warm place to sleep, they tend to crawl into outside piping attached to your home. The radon system here would exhaust air from your home, but not supply the proper amount of air back. This causes the home to be in a vacuum, or negative pressure. Flue gases are pulled back into the home from fuel burning appliances through vent piping, causing possible Carbon Monoxide.

Generators

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DO NOT run generators in a living structure or home! In addition, DO NOT run them near a window opening or doorway! The exhaust gases from the generator emit Carbon Monoxide levels that can result in sickness and death. Please run an extension cord at least 50 feet away and run the generator there to be safe, or per manufacturer specifications.

Hail Damaged Roofs

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Hail will not only damage your cars and roofs, but damage the vent caps located outside. With damaged caps like this one shown here, flue and toxic gases can not make it outside. The gases end up inside the home or structure which is a cause for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.

CO Treatment

Move victim(s) to fresh air to relieve immediate symptoms of acute poisoning.


Call 911 immediately if CO readings exceed 25 ppm (most fire fighters are under instruction to put on their breathing equipment at this reading).


Document parts per million (ppm) and ventilate affected area.


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How is Carbon Monoxide Formed?

When a fuel burns in an enclosed area, the amount of oxygen available gradually decreases and carbon monoxide increases. As the amounts of these two gases change, the combustion process changes from complete combustion to incomplete combustion. This results in increasing amounts of carbon monoxide (CO).


This is very important in tight home construction as well as properly designed heating systems that do not have enough ventilation, combustion air or fresh air for the appliances to burn properly.


Carbon Monoxide is produced when any fuel is incompletely burned because of insufficient oxygen.


Some of the leading sources of CO are as follow:

  • Unvented kerosene and gas heaters.
  • Leaking chimneys, vent pipes and furnaces.
  • Gas stoves not burning properly.
  • Generators and other gasoline powered equipment running within the home or garage.
  • Automobile exhaust from attached garages.
  • Tobacco smoke.

CO Levels from sources can be as follow:

  • 0.06-0.5 ppm Fresh air
  • 1-300 ppm Urban air
  • 2-16 ppm Smoke filled room
  • 100 ppm Cooking on a gas stove
  • 400-500 ppm Actively smoking a cigarette
  • 100,000 ppm Automobile exhaust

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Carbon Monoxide Prevention

Have your furnace or boiler checked by a licensed professional.

  • Check the heating system completely every heating season.
  • Check heating equipment vent piping, chimneys and combustion air piping for visual obstructions.
  • Do not use open flames, ovens and other appliances not intended for heating purposes.
  • Do not run vehicles and fuel burning equipment in garage areas.
  • Minimize the opening of the garage interior door allowing unwanted gases to enter the home.
  • Ensure the home radon system has been installed correctly and that the home is not in a negative pressure. This causes flue gases to be pulled back into the home, rather than go out the exhaust vents.

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