What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is called the “Invisible Killer” because it's a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. More than 150 people in the Unites States die every year from accidental nonfire-related CO poisoning associated with consumer products, including generators. Other products include faulty, improperly-used or incorrectly-vented fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stoves, water heaters and fireplaces. (Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission)
Most CO exposures occur during the winter months, especially in December and January, with the peak time of day for CO exposure is between 6 and 10 p.m.
Many experts believe that CO poisoning statistics understate the problem. Because the symptoms of CO poisoning mimic a range of common health ailments, it is likely that a large number of mild to mid-level exposures are never identified, diagnosed, or accounted for in any way in carbon monoxide statistics.
- Out of all reported non-fire carbon-monoxide incidents, 89% or almost nine out of 10 of them take place in a home.
When CO is inhaled, it displaces the oxygen that would ordinarily bind with hemoglobin, a process the effectively suffocates the body. CO can poison slowly over a period of several hours, even in low concentrations. Sensitive organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs, suffer the most from a lack of oxygen.
High concentrations of carbon monoxide can kill in less than five minutes. At low concentrations, it will require a longer period of time to affect the body.
Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide
Any fuel-burning appliances which are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO, such as:
- stoves and ovens;
- water heaters;
- room and space heaters;
- fireplaces and wood stoves;
- charcoal grills;
- clogged chimneys or flues;
- space heaters;
- power tools that run on fuel;
- gas and charcoal grills;
- certain types of swimming pool heaters; and
- boat engines.
What can I do to prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning?
Make sure you home is equipped with working Carbon Monoxide detectors. According to code in Minnesota, you must have one Carbon Monoxide detector on each floor of your home, and on floors with bedrooms, one CO detector must be within ten feet of each bedroom. This does mean that you need more than one CO detector on a floor with two bedrooms more than ten feet apart.
Check the CO detector every six months according to manufacturer's directions.
If you have any more questions about Carbon Monoxide or other indoor air quality concerns such as radon and mold, call us today and our certified home inspector will gladly help: 612-314-3121.