Saturday, March 6, 2010

Carbon Monoxide (C0) - How much is too much?

My daughter called me today to tell me that her CO (carbon monoxide) detector has been sounding off all day today and what should she do. When I heard this I immediately told her to open the windows and contact the gas company to check her gas appliances and gas furnace. I also asked her when did she last changed the batteries in her CO detector? She said the batteries were new. Luckily the gas company was open on a Saturday evening and they told her to contact the the fire department. When the fire department came out to her home they checked the home for CO (carbon Monoxide) and found that the CO levels were between 2-4 ppm (parts per million). They advised my daughter if the CO detector goes off again to call the fire department back again. Lets hope she does not have to. My daughter has a young baby and the baby will be more acceptable to CO poisoning at the lower levels than adults.

I told my daughter to go out and buy two new CO detectors with the capabilities of reading CO levels between 50-70 ppm. Also, have the gas company come to the home on Monday to check the gas appliances and gas furnace to make sure that they are operating within the manufacturers specifications.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas that can cause death if inhaled in copious amounts.
It is odorless, colorless, and has no taste. The human body cannot detect carbon monoxide
with its senses. When carbon monoxide is inhaled, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and
stays there longer, preventing oxygenated blood from performing its job in the body. Two
factors affect the amount of carbon monoxide absorbed into the bloodstream: the amount of carbon monoxide in a room and the length of exposure. Lower levels of CO inhalation can
cause flu-like symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, disorientation, fatigue, and
nausea. Other exposure effects can vary depending on the age and health of the individual.
Carbon monoxide in homes without gas appliances varies between 0.5 to 5 parts per
million (ppm). CO levels in homes with properly maintained gas appliances will vary from
5 to 15 parts per million. For those gas appliances that are not maintained properly, carbon
monoxide levels may be 30 ppm or even higher.

Testing for Carbon Monoxide
Consumer products for detecting carbon monoxide in a home have been on the market for
years. Carbon monoxide detectors should have an alarm that alerts consumers before they
are exposed to hazardous levels of carbon monoxide. In order to prevent false alarms, CO
detectors must be able to distinguish carbon monoxide gases from other types of gases, such
as butanes, heptane, alcohol, methane, and ethyl acetate. Two manufacturers that you can
visit on the Internet to view the different types of carbon monoxide detectors available
include and
Technicians who test for carbon monoxide use a special handheld meter to check the
levels of carbon monoxide in a room or home.

When to check for carbon monoxide in a home:
• When the consumer complains of headaches or nausea
• Houseplants are dying
• Unknown chronic odors from unknown sources
• Condensation on cool surfaces that might lead to flue gas products in the home

If you see any of these conditions contact you gas company. You may save your life and your family.

Gas Safety
The following are a few safety tips to help you in handling major gas appliances and gas furnaces in your home:
• Always follow the manufacturer’s use and care manual for the gas appliance.
• Always keep combustible products away from gas appliances.
• Keep your gas appliance clean from soot, grease, and food spillages.
• Teach your children not to play near or with gas appliances.
• Always have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case of mishaps that might lead to a fire.
• Have a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector installed in the home, and
check the batteries yearly.
• Never use a gas range to heat the home.
• Make sure that gas appliances have proper venting according to the manufacturers’

If you have oil fired furnaces they must be checked for proper CO levels too.


12,000 PPM Death within 1-3 minutes
1,600 PPM Nausea within 20 minutes, death within 1 hour
800 PPM Nausea and convulsions, death within 2 hours
400 PPM Front headaches within 1-2 hours; life threatening within 3 hours
70 PPM If CO at this level for four hours, your CO detector should be sounding
50 PPM MAXIMUM average level for a continuous exposure in an eight hour workday per federal law
10-35 PPM Marginal levels - small children, elderly, and those suffering respiratory or heat problems from chronic exposure
9 PPM Measured around a busy street and intersections
1-9 PPM These concentrations may not be avoidable without life style changes

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is very important to us all. Please check this link for further information on Carbon Monoxide.

Safety reminder to all, have your gas appliances and gas furnaces inspected for proper operation. This also includes oil fired furnaces too.

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