Carbon Monoxide – Quick Facts

carbon monoxide facts

Carbon Valley receives a lot of questions from customers about carbon monoxide leaks. Here are some quick facts to keep you informed, so you can stay safe:

What is it?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a gas with no smell or taste. It is poisonous, and can be fatal when inhaled. It is created when substances containing carbon are burned, and the carbon isn’t completely combusted. Carbon monoxide can be generated from the burning of gasoline, propane, oil, coal, wood, and a number of other flammable materials. 

How dangerous is it?

As previously mentioned, carbon monoxide is poisonous, and can kill you if you inhale it. When absorbed by the lungs, it enters your bloodstream and dislodges oxygen from it. As a result, your brain and heart lose the ability to function. 

The deadliness of CO inhalation depends on how much of it is in the air, and how long you’re exposed to it. If there was a large amount in the air, you’d suffocate and pass out almost instantaneously. 

Residential CO leaks are often smaller. You’ll likely experience more subtle and gradual symptoms. In this case, you might not notice that you have a leak until your health is in serious jeopardy. In an industrial setting, such as a factory, CO leaks are usually large. This will cause more instantaneous effects. People will suffocate, lose muscle function, and sometimes die. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 400 people die from CO poisoning annually. Another 20,000 people are treated in the emergency room, and 4,000 have to recover in the hospital.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?

Symptoms generally become more severe with higher exposure. Milder symptoms can be mistaken for the flu. Acute symptoms will be much more noticeable. 

Here are the symptoms to watch out for:

  • headache
  • dizziness 
  • nausea/vomiting
  • difficulty breathing
  • pains in chest
  • confusion
  • blurry vision
  • fainting

It’s important to note that children and the elderly are more susceptible to dying from CO poisoning. Being asleep and/or having a high blood-alcohol content means you may not notice the symptoms, and thus makes you subject to fatality. 

How much CO is dangerous?

Any amount of carbon monoxide in the air is dangerous. At 1-70 ppm (parts-per-million), symptoms will not present themselves in adults, but likely will in young/elderly persons. Past 70 ppm, symptoms will become more apparent. 150-200 ppm of carbon monoxide can cause delirium, poor muscle coordination, fainting, and death. 

How can I protect my home from CO leaks?

You must take proactive steps to prevent CO leaks, so you can protect yourself, your family, and/or your pets.  Given the associated risks, you’re always better safe than sorry. 

Here’s what you should do:

  • Make sure you’ve carefully read the instruction manuals for all appliances that use combustion (stoves, water heaters, furnaces, etc.). Don’t attempt to repair, clean, or install them on your own; have a professional take care of it.
  • Schedule annual maintenance inspections for your appliances. A professional will check for any punctures, blockages, sediment, or disconnected lines. 
  • NEVER run gas-powered appliances in enclosed spaces. This can cause CO levels to quickly peak. 
  • Don’t leave stovetop burners on when you’re not using them, and do not use them to heat your home. 
  • Don’t leave your car running in the garage, even with the door open. 
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector, and place it near your bed. When you’re asleep is when you’re most susceptible to CO poisoning. While installing a CO detector isn’t a substitute for taking preventative steps, it is an important safety net. 

Carbon Valley Heating and Air wants you, the people of Firestone Colorado to stay safe. That’s why we offer maintenance and repairs for your carbon-burning appliances. We also offer carbon monoxide detector installation. To learn more, call us at 303.562.1428.

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