Carbon Monoxide, Fire & Natural Gas

Carbon Monoxide Detection

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 it's there.

Carbon monoxide is a by-product of combustion, present whenever fuel is burned. It is produced by common home appliances, such as gas or oil furnaces, refrigerators or clothes dryers, water heaters, fireplaces, charcoal grills, gas ranges, wood burning stoves and space heaters. Fumes from automobiles also contain carbon monoxide and can enter a home through walls or doorways if a car is left running in an attached garage.

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.

Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

The great danger of carbon monoxide is its attraction to hemoglobin in the bloodstream. Carbon monoxide is breathed in through the lungs and bonds with hemoglobin in the blood, displacing the oxygen cells need to function. When carbon monoxide is present in the air, it rapidly accumulates in the blood, forming a toxic compound known as carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). Carboxyhemoglobin causes symptoms similar to the flu, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion and irritability. As levels of carboxyhemoglobin increase, vomiting, loss of consciousness and eventually brain damage or death can result.

If a home is vented properly and is free from appliance malfunctions, air pressure fluctuations or airway blockages, carbon monoxide 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 warm air in during winter months and cool air in during summer months can trap Carbon monoxide polluted air in a home year-round. 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.

Protection From Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends installing at least 1 carbon monoxide detector per household, near the sleeping area. A 2nd detector near the home's heat source provides extra protection. Choose an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listed detector that sounds an audible alarm. Battery powered and electrical units are both available. A hardwired AC model with battery back-up is also available.