|Don's Home Home & Garden Carbon Monoxide Contact|
Carbon monoxide is the leading cause of poisoning deaths in the U.S. Annually 3,500 to 4.000 die.
By replacing oxygen with carbon monoxide in our blood, our bodies poison themselves by cutting off the needed oxygen to our organs and cells, causing various amounts of damage - depending on exposure.
Cognitive performance is impaired at
COHb levels as low as 5%.
The time to reach that level is dependent on the concentration, measured in parts per million (ppm) and level of exertion.
The uptake rate of CO by blood when air containing CO is breathed increases from 3 to 6 times between rest and heavy work.
The half life of COHb in the blood varies from 2-7 hours with an average of 3-4 hours.
Small animals are more sensitive than humans, so if your hamster keels over unexpectedly, you may want to open some windows and get a CO detector.
Delayed Neurological Effects:
The most prevalent symptoms include mental deterioration, fecal and/or urinary incontinence. and gait (ability to walk) disturbances. Common aspects of mental deterioration include persistent headaches. personality changes, confusion, memory loss, and irritability.
Complete combustion of fuels yields only CO2 and water vapor, but when fuels are burned in non-ideal conditions, other compounds are emitted. These compounds are called products of incomplete combustion (PICs), and include carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4) and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as well as particulate matter (PM). CO is the most prevalent PIC.
Most newer homes are built very air-tight, thus cutting down on the supply of fresh air to your furnace - and creating an oxygen starved flame. Tight closing replacement windows and doors, as well as additional insulation can cause similar problems in older homes.
Carbon monoxide can spill from vent connections in poorly maintained or blocked chimneys. If the flue liner is cracked or deteriorated, CO can seep through the liner and into the house - slowly creeping up to dangerous levels. If a nest or other materials restrict or block the flue, CO will mostly spill back into the house.
Improperly sized flues connected to new high-efficiency furnaces and water heaters can also contribute to CO spillage. (Many new furnaces and water heaters are installed using the existing chimneys which may be the wrong size to allow the furnace to vent properly.)
Everything that changes air flow can adversely affect the safe operation of heating appliances including: weather; house orientation, shape and size; exterior obstructions; vent location, height, size, and type; bathroom exhaust fans; vented kitchen range hoods; clothes dryers.
Warming up vehicles in an attached garage, even with the garage door opened, can allow concentrated amounts of CO to enter your home through the car port door or near-by windows. During a cold start, tailpipe concentrations can exceed 90,000 ppm Catalytic converters, after warm up, reduce CO concentrations to only a few parts per million.
DO NOT BURN charcoal inside a home, cabin, recreational vehicle, or tent.
In the last 15 years CO has killed at least 93 people while they were boating. CO comes from the exhaust emissions of the engine driving the boat, the engine powering a generator, or a cook stove or heater. Swimming or leaning over the rear near the exhaust can cause a problem.
Scuba diving with a tank with CO from faulty or badly sited diving air compressors.
Cigarette smokers generally have blood levels of 2 to 10% CO-hemoglobin.
Signs That You May Have A Carbon Monoxide Problem
Some alarms (at least our 2004 model) may take several days to reset or not reset at all. I would keep a second, plug-in, unit or a newer unit which will reset around in a plastic bag, so you can test after you fix what you think may be a potential problem. My nephew closed the damper on the fireplace while there were still coals burning and the detector went off at 1AM in February when it was 10° outside, after opening the damper and opening some windows the alarm would not go off. He should have left the house and called 911. However, after the fire department determined your home safe, you would be without an alarm until yours was reset or you replaced the detector unit.
Look for a digital display. These show relatively precise CO levels in parts per million, rather than simply beeping. Some also show the peak level since they were reset, warning you of any spikes that occurred while you were away.
For this reason, the makers of First Alert® suggests mounting the detector on the ceiling. This also puts the detector out of the way of potential interference, such as pets or curious children.
What do I do if my carbon monoxide alarm goes off?:
If no one is feeling ill, press the test/silence button on the alarm. Turn off all appliances or other sources of combustion at once. Open doors or windows to get fresh air into the house. Call a qualified technician to correct the problem.
Some alarms (at least our 2004 First Alert model) may take several days to reset or not reset at all.