CO Exposed: Carbon Monoxide FAQs

This carbon monoxide FAQs page will tell you some of the important information about carbon monoxide gas.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

CO is the gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. The process of burning can sometimes produce not enough oxygen, which leads to CO production rather than CO2 production. Return to the main page for more detailed information.

What are the Sources of Carbon Monoxide?

Kitchen fire 94928960There are natural and manmade sources of CO. Natural sources are volcanoes, forest fires, brush fires, and other similar kinds of natural combustion. Manmade sources include any device used to burn fossil fuels, including vehicles, lawnmowers, kitchen appliances, furnaces, charcoal grills, kerosene, propane, wood fires in the home, and more.

How Does Carbon Monoxide Affect Humans?

Carbon monoxide gas is actually toxic when consumed in high concentrations by humans. When breathed in, CO combines with hemoglobin in your red blood cells to create a new compound called carboxyhemoglobin. Carboxyhemoglobin then takes the place of hemoglobin, which is supposed to transfer oxygen to the various systems and organs in the body. Thus, when too much CO is inhaled and large amounts of carboxyhemoglobin are formed in the blood, oxygen is not transferred, limiting the body’s ability to function properly. There are many health complications as a result, the most significant of which is death.

What Are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

CO poisoning will produce different symptoms depending on how much is produced and how long you are exposed to it. In smaller quantities, usually you will feel like you may have the flu because you’ll experience exhaustion, headaches, lightheadedness, dizziness, and nausea. When the concentration is higher, the symptoms become more significant and dangerous – neurological problems, fainting, disorientation, loss of muscle control, memory loss, unsteady gait, vomiting, and death.

How Many People are Affected by Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Each Year?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 500 or more Americans are killed by CO poisoning and another 15,000 are treated for it in hospitals across the country.

How Do You Detect It?

home-security-163693183Carbon monoxide is undetectable by humans because it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. However, CO alarms can detect its presence for you and alert you to the danger. For this reason it is important to have a CO detector in your house.

What are the State Laws about Carbon Monoxide?

Because we use it in many common devices, there is no significant legislation about trying to prevent carbon monoxide. There are only suggestions on how to minimize your production of it. To minimize production of CO, avoid leaving the car running in the garage. Do not run fossil fuel-burning devices longer than is necessary, and make sure there is adequate ventilation in the rooms where those devices are used. Never bring a generator into your house, because these produce large quantities of CO. Additionally, make sure to maintain your fuel-burning devices by carefully following instructions and having them inspected regularly for malfunctions. There are state laws in many states regarding having a CO detector in your house; check with your local or state housing department for further information. It’s a good idea to have a CO alarm in your home anyway to keep the situation under watch.

How Do You Respond When You Think You Might Have Carbon Monoxide in the Home?

If your CO alarm goes off or if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, immediately remove yourself and all persons from the house so that you can breathe fresh oxygen. Call the fire department to come to your home and call your doctor as soon as you can to describe your symptoms. The doctor will tell you how serious your symptoms are and whether or not you need to get to the hospital for treatment.