Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms from incomplete combustion of fuels, such as natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood or coal.  Any fuel-burning appliances which are malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO poisoning.

Facts and Figures:

•    480 U.S. residents died between 2001 and 2003 from non-fire-related carbon-monoxide poisoning.
•    Most CO exposures occur during the winter months, especially in December (including 56 deaths, and 2,157 non-fatal exposures), and in January (including 69 deaths and 2,511 non-fatal exposures). 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.

 

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. Exceeding the EPA concentration of 9 parts per million (ppm) for more than eight hours may have adverse health affects. The limit of CO exposure for healthy workers, as prescribed by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, is 50 ppm.

Colorado State Law States:

NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER PROVISION OF LAW,  THE SELLER OF EACH EXISTING SINGLE-FAMILY DWELLING OFFERED FOR
SALE OR TRANSFER ON OR AFTER JULY 1, 2009, THAT HAS A FUEL-FIRED HEATER OR APPLIANCE, A FIREPLACE, OR AN
ATTACHED GARAGE SHALL ASSURE THAT AN OPERATIONAL CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM IS INSTALLED WITHIN FIFTEEN FEET OF THE ENTRANCE
TO EACH ROOM LAWFULLY USED FOR SLEEPING PURPOSES OR IN A LOCATION AS SPECIFIED IN ANY BUILDING CODE
ADOPTED BY THE STATE OR ANY LOCAL GOVERNMENT ENTITY.

During my Home Inspections,  testing Carbon Monoxide detectors is very important due to the safety concerns and because of Colorado State Law as noted above.

 

CO Detector Placement

Where not to CO Detectors:
•    directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances, as appliances may emit a small amount of carbon monoxide upon start-up;
•    within 15 feet of heating and cooking appliances, or in or near very humid areas, such as bathrooms;
•    within 5 feet of kitchen stoves and ovens, or near areas locations where household chemicals and bleach are stored (store such chemicals away from bathrooms and kitchens, whenever possible);
•    in garages, kitchens, furnace rooms, or in any extremely dusty, dirty, humid, or greasy areas;
•    in direct sunlight, or in areas subjected to temperature extremes. These include unconditioned crawlspaces, unfinished attics, un-insulated or poorly insulated ceilings, and porches;
•    in turbulent air near ceiling fans, heat vents, air conditioners, fresh-air returns, or open windows. Blowing air may prevent carbon monoxide from reaching the CO sensors.
Where to  place CO detectors:
•    within 15 feet of each bedroom door and near all sleeping areas, where it can wake sleepers. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recommend that every home have at least one carbon monoxide detector for each floor of the home, and within hearing range of each sleeping area;
•    on every floor of your home, including the basement (source:  International Association of Fire Chiefs/IAFC);
•    near or over any attached garage. Carbon monoxide detectors are affected by excessive humidity and by close proximity to gas stoves (source:  City of New York);
•    near, but not directly above, combustion appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, and fireplaces, and in the garage (source:  UL); and
•    on the ceiling in the same room as permanently installed fuel-burning appliances, and centrally located on every habitable level, and in every HVAC zone of the building (source:  National Fire Protection Association 720). This rule applies to commercial buildings.
In North America, some national, state and local municipalities require installation of CO detectors in new and existing homes, as well as commercial businesses, among them:  Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont and New York City, and the Canadian province of Ontario. Installers are encouraged to check with their local municipality to determine what specific requirements have been enacted in their jurisdiction.