Carbon Monoxide

Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones From Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

by: edbishop

Carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for at least 400 accidental deaths and over 5,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms per year.

Unfortunately, carbon monoxide poisoning is often misdiagnosed as flu, food poisoning, allergy/asthma or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Children, the elderly, individuals with respiratory problems and pets are at risk, even at low levels.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are; headaches, nausea, drowsiness, vomiting, tiredness, pain, cramps and sleep disturbance.

Some people experience headaches and dizziness for almost 2 years prior to carbon monoxide poisoning diagnosis.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is highly toxic, making it impossible to detect with our senses.

Carbon monoxide is produced by incomplete combustion in household appliances like furnaces, boilers, water heaters, stoves, ovens, fireplaces as well as well as automobiles.

Tips to protect yourself and your loved ones:

  1. Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home
  2. Have your appliances (boilers, furnaces, stoves, water heater, fireplaces) checked and serviced by a reputable heating company.
    Be sure they are equipped with a professional carbon monoxide analyzer.
    If they tell you they don't have one, find another company!
  3. Do not use unvented appliances (kerosene heaters, barbecue grilles) in the house.
  4. If you have a garage that is attached to your home click here.
  5. Any time you strengthen the insulation properties or add a ventilation fan you should have your appliances checked to ensure the upgrades have not compromised the ability of the appliances to safely draft the combustion products from the house.

By following the above guidelines, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning can be significantly reduced.

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About The Author

Ed Bishop is founder and president of Enhanced Living Inc., a Troy, NY-based design-consulting and contracting company specializing in high performance heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems . A pioneer in residential contracting, Ed is a thirty-year industry veteran trained in the "House Is A System" approach to HVAC design. He was formerly a building analyst instructor, providing certification training for New York's Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program.

10 steps to Carbon Monoxide safety

You can't see it, smell it or taste it.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a subject that people know very little about. Not only can it kill you, it can cause permanent Neurological Damage in the longer term. In the short term, it can make you feel ill and inhibit you life potential.

Here's what to do to protect yourself. Please read all of the 10 steps to the end, it may be that the following five minutes could save your life, or the life of someone else.

  1. Check the flame colour of your appliances, if its orange you dohave a problem. However, Blue does not necessarily mean its safe. Get your appliances checked annually and get a detector if unsure. You would not drive your car without an MOT. Doing the same for you home is common sense as you spend most of your time there.
  2. Check the flue, is it blocked? Do you have creeping plants growing up your walls? Do you have birds nesting in your flue? Completely remove these obstructions from the flue area and fit a guard to stop any birds nesting. Get your flue checked! Is it drawing properly? Was it fitted correctly in the first place?
  3. Do you have a horizontal gas grill? They can be particularly hazardous. Is yours working correctly? Older appliances can be problematic, use the electric toaster instead. Get your cooker checked.
  4. Is there adequate ventilation? Check your air bricks or trickle vents. Have you had double glazing fitted? If the appliances in your home do not have enough air they will produce carbon monoxide
  5. When were your appliances last checked? Do it every year don't leave it to chance. Remember the engineer can only check the conditions on the day that he attends, get protection year round, fit a CO detector with a low level alarm.
  6. Do you suffer from unexplained illnesses, Fatigue, Muscle pains , Upset stomach, Lethargy, Dizziness, Headaches. Go to your doctor and get a CohB test, go directly from your house, don't go elsewhere as the CO in your blood will deplete and may not be picked up.
  7. Are you a tenant? Do you have a safety certificate? Does your landlord annually check the appliances in your accommodation? (He must do this by Law). Has the engineer done a thorough check? How long was he in the house for? Has your landlord fitted a CO Detector?
  8. Are you a landlord? have you been carrying out statutory checks? Even if you have you may be liable if one of your tenants becomes ill or worse dies. Fit a detector for your own and your tenants piece of mind. As a Landlord, you have to show due diligence. If you are found guilty of neglect you may be fined or even sent to prison. Could you live with the consequences for the rest of your life?
  9. We all feel better on holiday. If you feel especially invigorated it may be that you have been removed from the source of the poison. If your health goes into decline on your return it may be that it's not just post holiday blues, you may be suffering the ill effects from being poisoned from carbon monoxide in your home.
  10. The most important thing that you can do to protect yourself and your family from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning is to get a carbon monoxide detector alarm with a low level indicator. If you fit a detector you can at least be sure, having carried out all the about safety checks, that you are protected.

Signs and Symtoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms

Mild carbon monoxide poisoning causes headache, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and poor coordination. Most people who develop mild carbon monoxide poisoning recover quickly when moved into fresh air. Moderate or severe carbon monoxide poisoning causes confusion, unconsciousness, chest pain, shortness of breath, and coma. Thus, most victims are not able to move themselves and must be rescued. Severe poisoning is often fatal. Rarely, weeks after apparent recovery from severe carbon monoxide poisoning, symptoms such as memory loss, poor coordination, and uncontrollable loss of urine (which are referred to as delayed neuropsychiatric symptoms) develop.

Carbon monoxide is dangerous because a person may not recognize drowsiness as a symptom of poisoning. Consequently, someone with mild poisoning can go to sleep and continue to breathe the carbon monoxide until severe poisoning or death occurs. Some people with long-standing, mild carbon monoxide poisoning caused by furnaces or heaters may mistake their symptoms for other conditions, such as the flu or other viral infections.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is diagnosed by measuring the level of carbon monoxide in the blood.


Contributor's note: This stuff may be hard to read, but it is necessary to an understanding of how the medical community approaches this subject and how the U.S. government deals with complaints.

* Summary of toxicology

  1. Effects on animals - (deleted for space considerations. See OSHA website. Get there via Google.)
  2. Effects on Humans: Carbon monoxide is an asphyxiant in humans. Inhalation of carbon monoxide causes tissue hypoxia by preventing the blood from carrying sufficient oxygen. Carbon monoxide combines reversibly with hemoglobin to form carboxyhemoglobin. The reduction in oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is proportional to the amount of carboxyhemoglobin formed [Gosselin 1984]. All factors that speed respiration and circulation accelerate the rate of carboxyhemoglobin formation; thus exercise, increased temperature, high altitude, and anemia increase the hazard associated with carbon monoxide exposure[Gosselin 1984]. Other conditions that increase risk are hyperthyroidism, obesity, bronchitis, asthma, preexisting heart disease, and alcoholism [NLM 1993]. In tests with human volunteers breathing 50 ppm carbon monoxide (a concentration that produces 27 percent carboxyhemoglobin after an exposure of 2 hours), there was a significant decrease in time to onset of exercise-induced angina[Gosselin 1984].

Carbon monoxide can be transported across the placental barrier, and exposure in utero constitutes a special risk to the fetus. Infants and young children are generally believed to be more susceptible to carbon monoxide than adults. The elderly are also believed to be more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning [Gosselin A carboxyhemoglobin level of 0.4 to 0.7 percent is normally present in the blood of adults. In cigarette smokers, the range is 4 to 20 percent, which places smokers at greater risk in exposure situations [Clayton and Clayton 1982; ACGIH 1991]. A capacity to adapt to carbon monoxide exposure has been reported in several human studies.

Healthy young men exposed to carbon monoxide at a concentration of 44 ppm for a prolonged period suffered no adverse health effects [ACGIH 1986]. Men exposed to 50 ppm for several days without relief complained of headaches, but exposure to 40 ppm for 60 days was without effect [ACGIH 1986]. Workers in the Holland Tunnel working 8-hour swing shifts of 2 hours in and 2 hours out at an average carbon monoxide exposure concentration of 70 ppm had average carboxyhemoglobin levels of 5 percent, and none had levels above 10 percent [ACGIH 1991].