Carbon monoxide (CO), also called
carbonic oxide, is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas which is
lighter than air. It is highly toxic to humans and animals in higher
quantities, although it is also produced in normal animal metabolism in
low quantities, and is thought to have some normal biological functions.
You canít see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more die from CO produced by idling cars. Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially susceptible.
Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause.
If you experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning:
If your CO detector alarm goes off:
If you don't have a CO detector. Get one.
Have a qualified technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances and chimneys to make sure they are operating correctly and that there is nothing blocking the fumes from being vented out of the house.
Carbon monoxide occurs in various natural and artificial environments. Typical concentrations in parts per million (ppm) are as follows
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