These Questions & Answers are developed to provide better understanding of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide exposure and the benefits of having a Quantum Guardian® Carbon Monoxide alarm in your home or vehicle. Click on the Question to see the answer.
Everybody, the rich and the poor needs oxygen to live. Some people may be more vulnerable to CO poisoning than others. We will refer to them as the sensitive population. The sensitive population consists of the very old and very young, the sick and those with blood diseases or cardiorespiratory impairment such as heart disease, high blood pressure, anemia, lung disorders, cancer and other serious illness. The most sensitive are the unborn babies.
The toxic effect of CO is calculated using the Coburn equation, which estimates the CO exposure over time to give the carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) %. The UL 2034 standard states that your carbon monoxide (CO) alarm and carbon monoxide (CO) detector must respond between 5% COHb and 10% COHb. The current UL Standard 2034 limits for CO alarms and CO detectors are the same, see below:
30ppm for 30 days no response no alarm and no warning
The CO Detector and/or CO Alarm must go into alarm signal between
60 to 240 minutes at 70 PPM
10 to 50 minutes at 150 PPM
4 to15 minutes at 400 PPM
CO alarms and CO detectors are available for recreational vehicles and aircraft but require an unconditioned space listing. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) requires CO alarms in all RVs.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a very toxic and deadly gas. It is invisible, odorless and very poisonous. It consists of one atom of oxygen symbol O and one atom of carbon symbol C thus is represented by chemists as CO.
CO is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. It is also produced in most fires. CO is also made in engines such as vehicles, generators, lawn mowers, power washers and other engine driven tools.
According to Cobb and Etzel article in the Journal of American Medical Association approximately 5,700 are killed annually in the USA. About half are suicides. The remaining 3100 fatalities were unintended.
This study was conducted over a ten year time frame before CO alarms were introduced in mass markets in 1993. Today the number of people killed by CO in the home has dropped significantly perhaps about 170 to 200; however, the number of people being poisoned as non-fatal injuries is very large. Some estimates vary from 10,000 to 20,000. The number is probably very much large because Michael C, Dolan, MD found that 23.6% of those diagnosed with the flu actually had CO poisoning. Paul Heckerling found that as high as 5% of people seeking medical attention in the winter had CO poisoning.
Improper installation, improper design of a structure (home), malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ranges, water heaters and room heaters; engine-powered equipment such as lanterns, BBQs, generators; fireplaces; and other enclosed combustion devices.
Generators make large amounts of CO at very high concentrations and therefore must be placed at least 20 feet from a home or other structures such as an RV or boat. The Consumer Product Safety Commission published a report that tabulated at least 94 generator-related CO poisoning deaths in 2005. About 47 of these fatalities occurred during power outages such as in Hurricane Katrina.
In some cases there are no symptoms and suddenly you pass out and die. If the CO is slowly building up the initial symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are similar to the flu. The most common symptoms are headache and fatigue. Other symptoms include nausea, giddiness, and shortness of breath, pain in the chest, dizziness, confusion and weakness. If the CO levels continue to rise slowly you will be very sleepy, vomiting occurs with some people, loss of muscular coordination, loss of mental coordination, loss of consciousness, coma and then death.
Your symptom severity is related to your health condition, age, body weight as well as the CO level and the duration of exposure. For example, I saw a case where both parents survived but their twin 6 month old children died. One had 13% CARBOXYHEMAGLOBIN (COHb). Normally most adults will just start to feel a slow down at 13% COHb. The other twin died at 33% COHb, which means he survived longer than his twin brother but still died. Normally, 33% COHb will not kill a healthy adult but I have seen several cases where a similar amount caused fatal heart attacks in what appeared to be healthy adults in their 40s. In one case of a cracked heat exchanger the CO gradually built up over several years. In this case the people went to a Georgia hospital several times but were mistakenly diagnosed with the flu. Until the third time in two months the entire family was rushed to the hospital after a child was unresponsive.
Moderate CO poisoning symptoms if not diagnosed properly can lead to death. One of the children died resulting in a tragic death. In cases of high level CO exposures which sometimes occur from using a charcoal BBQ, space heater or generator within an enclosure, victims are often overcome with very little if any warning. Some survivors have reported being mentally confused, very tired, having loss muscle control, loss of bladder control without having first experienced milder symptoms. In one such case the grandparents died while the son and grandson survived.
Sometimes the weather such as wind plays an important part in a CO poisoning.
1. Do purchase and install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms and/or carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in every sleeping area and every floor. The garage is another key place for a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm or carbon monoxide (CO) detector.
2. Do have your appliances professionally installed and maintained? Read the manuals for every appliance before it is installed so you can check the contractor as he installs the appliance. If he does not follow the manual ask why and bring in another expert for an opinion. You can call the local building inspector and get him out at the site before you allow the installation to be completed. You should always operate appliances according to the manufacturer's instructions and local building codes.
Locating a reliable appliance system professional is not always easy. You might think that a big name store would give you peace of mind but I have seen a big name store contract out their installation and maintenance with licensed contractors but the licensee was negligent, which led to two CO deaths and two serious injuries. You need to have the installation inspected for onsite installation and for every service call otherwise you can end up dead or brain dead. I have seen it happen. That is why you need to equip your home and RV with a CO alarm or CO detector that is False Alarm Free to common household vapors. Every year you need to have an annual maintenance checkup for exhaust vents and flues for corrosion, blockage and loose connections.
Here are a few DO NOTs
1. Do not service fuel-burning appliances without proper skill, knowledge, and tools. Do not ignore the manual!
2. Do not operate a portable generator or any other gasoline engine-powered tool within 20 feet of a dwelling space
3. Do not operate a combustion device in an enclosed space such as a garage, house, or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.
4. Do not use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, and vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
5. Do not use charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
6. Do not leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
7. Do not use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers to heat your home.
8. Do not operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
9. Do not cover the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with aluminum foil. Doing so blocks the combustion air flow through the appliance and can produce CO.
10.Do not conduct remodeling without an appliance profession to ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris.