Carbon Monoxide (CO)

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, deadly gas. Because one cannot smell, see, or taste it, carbon monoxide can kill you before you know it is there.

Where does carbon monoxide occur?

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of a fuel burning process. Carbon monoxide can be emitted by gas or oil furnaces, clothes dryers, water heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces, gas ranges, space heaters. Improper venting or a clogged chimney can also cause problems. Fall and winter months also see many residents warming their cars prior to driving. Often times this is done in the garage or immediately outside the garage with the garage door open. Both these are dangerous practices and can put dangerous even lethal amounts of carbon monoxide inside a home in a matter of minutes.

Who is at risk?

Everyone! CO effects individuals differently depending on their size and medical history. There, families with young children or members with medical conditions should take extra precautions in the event that CO is detected.

Where do I place my carbon monoxide detector and what kind do I look for?

Place a carbon monoxide detector near the sleeping area. A second detector should be located near the heating appliance. When purchasing a carbon monoxide detector look for the UL seal. Different types give a visual number that lets you know the exact level of CO in your home. At least one CO detector should be battery powered.

What are the acceptable levels?

Less than 10 PPM: Acceptable limit.

10 or more PPM: Potentially deadly level of CO. Leave the building immediately. Call 911

What do I do when my CO detector goes into alarm?

Call 911 or your local fire department.

Should I open my windows if my detector alarms?

No, if your detector alarms it is indicating an unsafe atmosphere and wasting time opening windows could be a deadly decision. Get out, call 911 and crews will respond with very sensitive equipment that can trace the source.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?

CO poisoning symptoms can mimic the flu. Headaches or feeling better when you leave your home are also possible symptoms.

Is it true that CO detectors have many false alarms?

When CO detectors were first introduced they were adequate but easily alarmed in constant low level areas. In fact in December of 1994, when detectors were still new, the Chicago Fire Department responded to 1,851 false carbon monoxide alarms in a 24 hour period. This was due to a thermal inversion where cold air was trapped under a layer of hot air not allowing pollutants like automobile exhaust, to escape into the atmosphere. After this happened makers of the new detectors took notice and worked to make even better detectors. Today’s detectors have very good systems and some even have digital displays which are very accurate.

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