What Exactly Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a chemical compound produced primarily by the burning of fuels such as wood, gasoline, propane, or charcoal. During combustion, this chemical develops as a gas and is emitted together with smoke, carbon dioxide, and other pollutants. Gas appliances and fireplaces are designed to vent the CO they produce outside; however, when they fail and leak CO indoors, it causes carbon monoxide poisoning—which can be fatal if the leak is large enough or if you fall asleep near a smaller leak, such as in a basement bedroom near a leaking furnace.
Does Carbon Monoxide Smell?
Carbon monoxide, on the other hand, has no odour. Carbon monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas produced as a consequence of combustion. As a homeowner, this means that it can leak from your gas furnace, stove, dryer, water heater, and wood stove/fireplace.
Carbon monoxide is impossible to detect because it has no smell, colour, or taste. This gas is a hidden danger, and exposure to it can be lethal.
To keep your family safe, it’s critical to identify all potential CO sources in your house and to correctly install and maintain carbon monoxide detectors.
What Is the Method for Detecting Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a deadly and difficult to detect gas. That’s why people rely on carbon monoxide detectors strategically positioned around their homes to detect the presence of CO before it has a negative impact on their health. It’s vital to realise that you can’t detect CO on your own. The only way to keep your house safe is to have proper CO detector installation, location, and maintenance.
Carbon monoxide is odourless, colourless, and tasteless.
Sources of Carbon Monoxide in the Home
Carbon monoxide can be produced by any combustible element in the home. • Fireplace chimneys with obstructed flues • Natural gas-, propane-, or heating oil-fired furnaces • Gas stoves • Gas clothes dryers • Gas water heaters • Automotive exhaust (vehicle accidentally left running in an attached garage, which seeps CO into the home)
Proper placement of your carbon monoxide detectors is critical for accounting for the risk of CO from various sources. Every residence should have a CO detector mounted five feet or more above the floor on each floor or level. Because CO is lighter than air, it tends to congregate near the ceiling.
Install detectors in the same rooms as gas or wood-burning appliances, but keep them at least 10 feet apart to minimise incorrect readings.
The location of carbon monoxide detectors is crucial to the safety of your family.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Symptoms
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include dizziness, lethargy, headache, and nausea. With high levels of exposure, it may cause vomiting, impaired vision, and shortness of breath before triggering loss of consciousness; and residents may only have minutes to flee the house before falling unconscious and being poisoned to death.
People who are sleeping at the time of a CO leak are unlikely to be awoken by these symptoms, increasing their risk of mortality unless they can rely on an alarm to wake them.
Is Carbon Monoxide Odorous to Rotten Eggs?
No! Some fallacies surround carbon monoxide detection methods, such as distinguishing the strong odour of rotting eggs (like a natural gas leak). Carbon monoxide gas has no odour and cannot be detected.
However, never disregard natural gas’s “rotten egg” odour. Look for the source of the leak (often an unlit gas stove burner accidentally turned on while wiping down the stovetop). If you are unable to discover the source of the leak, contact your gas company or the fire department.
Heat Sources, Power Outages, and the Risk of CO
Never use kerosene or gas space heaters indoors to remain warm during a power outage. They emit carbon monoxide directly into the home, resulting in carbon monoxide poisoning or death. The same is true for gas-powered generators and gas-powered power tools—neither should be used indoors nor in poorly ventilated outdoor settings, such as inside or near garages.
What Is The Source Of The Carbon Monoxide Leak?
When fuels such as gas, oil, coal, and wood do not burn completely, carbon monoxide is created.
Carbon monoxide gas is produced by the combustion of charcoal, the operation of automobiles, and the smoke from cigarettes.
Fuel sources such as gas, oil, coal, and wood are utilised in a variety of domestic equipment such as boilers, gas fireplaces, central heating systems, water heaters, and more.
The most prevalent causes of accidental carbon monoxide exposure are incorrectly placed, poorly maintained, or inadequately vented domestic appliances such as ovens, heaters, and central heating boilers.
Carbon monoxide exposure from portable equipment may also be increased in caravans, yachts, and mobile homes.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can also be caused by:
- Blocked flues and chimneys – this can prevent carbon monoxide from escaping, allowing it to build up to dangerous levels.
- Burning fuel in an enclosed or unventilated space – for example, running a car engine, petrol-powered generator, or barbeque inside a garage, or a faulty boiler in an enclosed kitchen.
- Faulty or blocked car exhausts – a leak or blockage in the exhaust pipe, such as after heavy snowfall.
- Using shisha pipes indoors – shisha pipes burn charcoal and tobacco, which can cause carbon monoxide buildup in confined or unventilated areas.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Complications
Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide might result in major issues such as brain damage and cardiac problems.
It is fatal in the most severe cases.
The following are the symptoms of severe carbon monoxide poisoning:
- shortness of breath
- chest discomfort
- fits (seizures)
- lack of consciousness
Long-term consequences that occur in 10 to 15% of patients who suffer severe carbon monoxide poisoning are as follow:
- Damage to the brain
Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause memory issues and difficulty concentrating. It can also lead to visual and hearing loss.
Severe carbon monoxide poisoning can produce Parkinsonism in rare cases, characterized by tremors, stiffness, and slow movement. Parkinsonism is distinct from Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative neurological illness associated with ageing.
- Cardiovascular disease
Another dangerous ailment that can develop as a result of long-term carbon monoxide exposure is coronary heart disease.
Coronary heart disease occurs when the blood flow to the heart is obstructed or stopped due to a buildup of fatty substances (atheroma) in the coronary arteries.
Angina can occur when the blood flow is restricted (chest pains).
A heart attack can occur if the coronary arteries become fully clogged.
- Unborn babies are harmed.
Long-term carbon monoxide gas exposure can adversely harm an unborn infant.
Babies that are exposed to carbon monoxide during pregnancy are at risk of:
- having a low birth weight
- perinatal death (stillbirth and death within the first four weeks of life)
- behavioral issues
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Can Be Avoided.
It is critical to be aware of the risks and to identify any appliances in your home that may leak carbon monoxide.
- Upkeep and servicing of appliances
- Upkeep of chimneys and flues
- Engine exhaust gases
- Carbon monoxide alarms
Other safety precautions to take at home and at work
To help safeguard yourself at home and at work, follow the safety precautions listed below:
- Never heat your home using ovens or gas ranges.
- Never use big pots on a gas stove, and never wrap foil around the burners.
- Ensure that rooms are sufficiently ventilated and that no air vents are blocked. If your home is double-glazed or draught-proofed, check sure there is still enough air circulating to keep any heaters in the room operating properly.
- If possible, avoid using gas-powered equipment and tools inside your home. Use them only in well-ventilated areas, and keep the engine and exhaust outside.
- When working with methylene chloride-containing compounds, always use a safety mask.
- Never burn charcoal in a confined place, such as on an indoor grill.
- Never sleep in a room with an unflued gas fire or a paraffin heater.
- Install an exhaust fan in your kitchen (if it does not already have one).
What Should You Do If Carbon Monoxide Is Found?
If you suspect that members of your household are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, or if your detectors warn you, leave your home immediately and call 911. When it is safe to return to your home, emergency services will assess it.