What is carbon monoxide and who is at risk?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless,
odorless deadly gas. Because you can't see,
taste or smell it, carbon monoxide can kill you before you know
Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Experts
believe, however, that
individuals with greater oxygen requirements such as unborn
babies, infants, children,
senior citizens and people with coronary or respiratory problems
are at greater risk.
Why is carbon monoxide so
The great danger of carbon monoxide is
its attraction to hemoglobin in the blood-
stream. CO is breathed in through the lungs and bonds with the
the blood, displacing the oxygen cells needed to function. When CO
is present in
the air, it rapidly accumulates in the blood forming a toxic
compound known as
Carboxyhemoglobin causes symptoms similar to the flu, such as
nausea, dizzy spells, confusion and irritability. As levels of
COHb increase, vomiting,
loss of consciousness and eventually brain damage or death can
Where does carbon
monoxide come from?
Carbon monoxide is a by-product of
combustion, present when ever fuel is burned.
It is produced by common home appliances, such as gas or oil
or clothes driers, water heaters, fireplaces, charcoal grills, gas
ranges, wood burning
stoves and space heaters. Fumes from automobiles also contain CO
and can enter
a home through walls and doorways if a car is left running in an
All of these sources can contribute to a CO problem in the home.
If a home is ventilated
properly and is free from appliance malfunctions, air pressure
fluctuations or airway
blockages, CO will most likely be safely vented to the outside.
But in today's "energy-
efficient" homes, this is frequently not the case. Insulation
meant to keep a house warm
in the winter and cool in the summer can trap CO-polluted air in a
Furnace heat exchangers can crack, vents can become blocked,
inadequate air supply
for combustion appliances can cause conditions known as
backdrafting or reverse
stacking, which force contaminated air back into the home.
How can I protect myself / family
from CO poisoning?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission
recommends installing at least one
carbon monoxide detector per household, near the sleeping area. A
detector near the homes heat source provides extra protection.
Choose an Underwriters
Laboratories (UL) listed detector that sounds an audible alarm.