Carbon Monoxide Awareness

Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A Dr. Holding A X-Ray Of Lungs

The following is a list of common symptoms. This list is not meant to serve as a diagnosis.

  • Loss of hearing
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Depression
  • Blurry vision
  • Cardiac Arrest
  • Disorientation
  • Vomiting
  • Respiratory failure
  • Weakness
  • Coma
  • Painful discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Muscle aches
  • Soreness
  • Memory disorders
  • Seizures
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Low birth weight and other birth defects
  • Symtoms are often confused with the flu or food poisoning

Don't wait until illness symptoms occur or until something breaks! Have your appliances checked at least annually. If you are sick, go to a doctor and get tested for CO poisoning.

Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?

Heavy Traffic On A Interstate

Carbon Monoxide is produced from anything that burns hydrocarbon fuel. 

Whether it is gasoline, natural gas, propane or wood, they all produce carbon monoxide. The number one cause of accidental CO (Carbon Monoxide) poisoning in North America is auto exhaust in garages and the exhaust fumes from internal combustion engines. 

Remember: CO is Odorless

People have died while keeping their motor vehicles running while talking or sleeping. Factors that contribute to this type of poisoning are as simple as prevailing winds bringing exhaust into the vehicle or deep snow, mud, ditches and walls restricting the exhaust ability to get safely away from the vehicle.    

Carbon Monoxide Detectors & Alarms

A Carbon Monoxide/Smoke Detector Being Tested

A carbon monoxide alarm/detector should be used whenever a hydrocarbon based combustion system is used. The choice of alarms, detectors and monitors may be a matter of life or death. 


There are approximately 50,000 emergency room visits for CO poisoning in the USA annually.  

Every home should have at least one carbon monoxide detector that is more sensitive to the health needs of vulnerable populations. It is very important to know that alarms listed by the UL 2034 standard may not be the best for some people of vulnerable health. UL 2034 alarms are not required to sound off until 70 PPM (Parts Per Million molecules of air) of CO are present for as long as 4 hours. That standard does not even meet up to OSHA workplace standards for alarming.  The test button on UL 2034 alarms does not tell you if the sensor is working; it just tells you that the audible alarm is working. You have no way of knowing if the sensor has failed.

UL requires listed alarms to notify consumers by product package instructions that suggest people of vulnerable health, use a better alarm than that listed under UL 2034. COSA (Carbon Monoxide Safety Association) describes these people to include; pregnant women, infants and people with heart or respiratory complications and chronic depression. 

UL 2034 alarms have only been tested at levels of 70 PPM, 150 PPM and 400 PPM.

  • 70 PPM of CO- resist alarming for 1 hour; must alarm before 4 hours.
  • 150 PPM of CO- resist alarming for 10 minutes; must alarm before 50 minutes.
  • 400 PPM of CO- resist alarming for 4 minutes; must alarm before 15 minutes.

The most common maximum concentration of CO for civilian evacuation and the wearing of self-contained breathing apparatus by fire departments around North America is 35 PPM of CO.  

At the very least, a carbon monoxide alarm should display CO levels to the user in PPM.

How Much is to Much

Fireman

The health effects of CO poisoning can vary significantly due to age, sex, weight, and overall state of health. CO is measured in Parts Per Million or PPM; out of a million molecules of air, how many are carbon Monoxide? 

The times given below, respective to the levels referenced in this chart, are for healthy people unless otherwise stated.

  • 12,000 PPM Death within 7-3 minutes
  • 1,600 PPM Nausea within 20 minutes, death within 1 hour
  • 800 PPM Nausea and convulsions, death within 2 hours
  • 400 PPM Frontal headaches within 1-2 hours; life threatening within 3 hours 
  • 200 PPM NIOSHA (National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health Administration) A worker will not be exposed to more than this amount. 
  • 50 PPM Maximum average level for continuous exposure in an 8 hour workday per federal law.
  • 35 PPM 8 hour exposure TWA (time weighted average); NIOSHA, CDC
  • 10-35 PPM Marginal for small children, elderly and those suffering respiratory or heart problems. Breathing, apparatus & civilian evacuations begin, or are completed, by Fire Departments when levels are within this range. 
  • 25 PPM 8 hour TWA limit; ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists)
  • 9 PPM This concentration is often measured around busy city streets & intersections. Recommended maximum allowable level by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration & Air conditioning Engineers) for a TWA in a 24 hour continuous indoor exposure. This level is an EPA 8 hour TWA outside standard. 
  • 1-9 PPM It may be difficult to avoid those often-occurring spikes in transit or chronic CO levels without life-style changes.