Carbon Monoxide Faq

About Carbon Monoxide

What you should know to protect your family from "The Silent Killer"

Every day is Carbon Monoxide Safety Day

CO poisoning from the use of fuel burning appliances kills hundreds people each year and sends more than 50,000 to hospital emergency rooms for treatment.

Others die from CO produced while burning charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent. Still others die from CO produced by cars unintentionally left running in attached garages. *CPSC 1997

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless and colorless gas which could be created whenever a fuel (such as wood, gasoline, coal, natural gas, kerosene, etc.) is burning.

You are exposed to Carbon Monoxide when

  • You leave your car, truck or van running.
  • You burn charcoal, alcohol or gasoline in an enclosed tent, camper or room.
  • You smoke a cigar, cigarette or pipe.
  • You home contains an incorrectly vented or malfunctioning hot water heater, furnace, space heater, fireplace or stove.

How does Carbon Monoxide harm you?

Quite simply, carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from being used by your body. Carbon monoxide is poisonous and can harm your central nervous system.

Who is at Risk?

Everyone is at risk of being poisoned by carbon monoxide. However, individuals with existing health problems such as heart and lung disease and the elderly are especially vulnerable. Infants, children and pregnant women are also at risk.

How Much is Too Much?

These levels should be referenced to the effects on healthy people. Health effects can vary significantly based on age, sex, weight, and overall state of health.

PPM = parts per million molecules of air

  • 12,000 PPM - Death within 1 – 3 minutes
  • 1600 PPM - Nausea within 20 minutes, death within 1 hour
  • 800 PPM - Nausea and convulsions – death within 2 hours
  • 400 PPM - Frontal headaches 1-2 hours life threatening within 3 hours
  • 50 PPM - Maximum level for continuous exposure in an 8 hour workday
  • 10–35 PPM - Marginal Small children, elderly, and those suffering respiratory or heart problems
  • 9 PPM - The concentration often found on busy city streets
  • 1 – 9 PPM - Any increase of CO from outside warrants further investigation but may not be an immediate health risk

The CPSC* (Consumer Products Safety Commission) recommends that consumers have their furnaces, water heaters, and other fuel-burning appliances inspected yearly by a qualified service professional.

Chairman Ann Brown says. "And every home should have at least one CO detector that meets the requirements of the most recent Underwriters Laboratories standards." *CPSC 1997

**Underwriters Laboratories standards are not adequate to protect infants, the elderly, smokers, and individuals in generally poor health.

What are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning mimics many common illnesses, such as the flu and food poisoning.

Common symptoms associated with carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • rapid heartbeat
  • loss of consciousness
  • coma
  • cardiac arrest
  • loss of hearing
  • blurry vision
  • vomiting
  • disorientation
  • seizures
  • respiratory failure

This list is not intended to be a diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning.  It is intended to provide information about carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms. Always check with your doctor.

Call the Fire Department if your CO Meter Activates

Long Term Exposure

Health effects are related to the level of CO concentration and length of exposure. New studies indicate that chronic, low level exposure can have serious health consequences.

What Can I do to Protect Myself and My Family?

  • Educating yourself about CO, and taking simple precautions, can help to protect your family’s health and well-being
  • Use non-electrical space heaters only in well-ventilated areas.
  • Don’t start or leave running cars, trucks, or other vehicles in an enclosed area.
  • Every home should have at least one CO detector that meets UL standards.
  • Have your furnace and other fuel burning appliances tested and inspected by a qualified professional once a year or before each heating season. Each manufacturer’s measurable standards may be found in the unit’s instructions. You should receive a measurement report verifying what tests were taken and the results.
  • Make sure your HVAC service professional tests each appliance using a testing instrument that can detect carbon monoxide or analyze the combustion gases. He should also be able to measure building and duct pressures, which may aid in the prevention of combustion system failure and CO generation.
  • CO detectors & properly maintained combustion appliances can save lives!
  • Don’t wait until symptoms occur! BE SAFE!

Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors can help alert you to increased levels of carbon monoxide in your home, but they are not foolproof!

The UL standard for carbon monoxide detectors presumes healthy occupants. Healthy adults are at low risk of serious CO poisoning at low-level exposure. Infants, the elderly, smokers, and individuals in generally poor health are at significantly higher risk from low-level CO exposure.

What to do if you suspect Carbon Monoxide is present in your home

  • Call: If your detector alarm sounds and you are experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, leave your home immediately and call your local emergency services number or 911 if it is available in your area.
  • CHECK: If your detector alarm sounds and you have no symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: First check the detector, push the reset button (if available). Get fresh air to the building, and check for sources of carbon monoxide. Turn off any suspicious or obviously malfunctioning appliances or other sources of combustion. Levels of CO higher than those measured outside warrants further investigation, though may not be an immediate health risk. Contact a qualified service or repair company who can test for CO with proper test instruments.
  • ALWAYS: If you think you have symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and you do not have a detector, leave your home, and call your emergency services number or 911 immediately!

COSA Raises Awareness

For information on COSA Carbon Monoxide Training call 1-800-394-5253.

Remember there are many more possible sources & causes of Carbon Monoxide

The Carbon Monoxide Safety Association