Carbon Monoxide Safety Message

CHARACTERISTICS OF CARBON MONOXIDE

Carbon Monoxide is a harmful byproduct of incomplete combustion. Specific characteristics are:

Colorless-undetectable by sight

Odorless-no detectable odor

Tasteless-leaves no taste in the mouth

Flammable-combustible between 12.5% & 74% volume in the air

Not much lighter than air-0.9672 specific gravity

Toxic-with sufficient exposure, Carbon Monoxide is deadly

Many times Carbon Monoxide is associated with a sharp pungent odor. This odor, however, is a result of aldehydes and alcohols are responsible for the irritating effects to the eyes and nasal passages. When these odors are detected, carbon monoxide is almost always present. The absence of these odors however, does not insure that carbon monoxide is not present.

 

SOURCES OF CARBON MONOXIDE IN HOMES

As stated earlier, Carbon Monoxide is a byproduct of incomplete combustion. This incomplete combustion may be from any fuel that utilizes a carbon base. Types of carbon base fuels include wood, tobacco, coal, kerosene, gasoline, and natural gas.

Potential sources of Carbon Monoxide are any appliance, machinery or process that burns these fuels. Besides gas appliances, other sources of Carbon Monoxide may be kerosene heaters, internal combustion engines, fireplaces and even smoking. It is important for the gas serviceman to be aware of these other potential Carbon Monoxide sources when performing an investigation.

 

CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING

Carbon Monoxide can only enter the body through the respiratory system. It acts to asphyxiate the body by combining with the hemoglobin in the bloodstream. (Hemoglobin is the oxygen carrying component of blood). Carbon Monoxide replaces oxygen in the bloodstream causing asphyxiation to occur.

The amount of Carbon Monoxide absorbed by the body depends on the following factors:

  • Carbon Monoxide concentration in air
  • Length of exposure
  • Breathing rate
  • Exposure to fresh air between Carbon Monoxide exposures
  • Degree of physical activity
  • Physical fitness

SYMPTOMS OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING

The early symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning appear to be “flu-like”. The most common of these symptoms are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Increased perspiration
  • Vomiting

Later stages of Carbon Monoxide poisoning are much more severe. They include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme muscular weakness
  • Mental confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Intermittent convulsions

If these symptoms are not immediately treated or the person is exposed to dangerous levels for any length of time, death could possibly occur. If these symptoms are experienced and thought to be associated with Carbon Monoxide poisoning, consult a doctor immediately.

SAFETY TIPS:

Yellow flame indicates that the gas is not burning and is giving off carbon monoxide.

  • Replace filters regularly. Most are inexpensive.
  • Have your furnace and water heater inspected annually by a heating contractor.
  • Look for signs of improper venting. Soot around the appliance and moisture on the inside of windows when the appliance is running are tell tale signs of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector (replace batteries as recommended to ensure proper operation).
  • Vent-free heaters should be placed near a window or exterior door for venting.
  • Vents and chimneys should be clear of debris or anything that may cause blockage.
  • Have chimney inspected and cleaned as needed.
  • Check oven pilots for carbon build-up.
  • Never run your car while in a garage.
  • Never line burners with foil.