Carbon Monoxide is something you should be aware of. Over 400 Americans die each year from CO poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (not caused by fires.) CO also leads to more than 20,000 visits to the ER and over 4,000 hospitalizations.
What is carbon monoxide, and what does it do?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is toxic even in small amounts. It is made up of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom.
What causes CO to be poisonous?
Hemoglobin is a chemical found in red blood cells that transports oxygen from the lungs to all of the body’s tissues, then returns carbon dioxide (CO2) as a waste product that can be readily expelled and breathed. Carbon monoxide (CO) attaches to hemoglobin about 200 times more easily than oxygen, therefore if CO is present, oxygen will be unable to enter the hemoglobin since the space has been taken up by CO. Sections of the body will be deprived of oxygen as a result, and the damaged parts will die.
What are the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning?
The person may feel as if they have the flu but might not have a fever. If numerous persons in the same building exhibit the same symptoms, they could all be suffering from CO poisoning. All cooking and heating equipment should be switched off, all windows should be opened, and the local gas safety authorities should be alerted if this occurs. The symptoms of CO poisoning become more severe the longer a person is exposed to it. A person may experience loss of balance, vision issues, memory problems, and eventually loss of consciousness within a few hours of first being exposed. If the symptoms are fairly minor, there is a good possibility for a complete recovery. Other symptoms, such as disorientation, memory issues, and coordination difficulties, may appear later, even months after inhaling CO gas. Coronary heart disease is one of the long-term effects of CO poisoning. CO gas poisoning affects people more quickly if they have heart or respiratory difficulties. Pregnant women, infants, and tiny children are especially vulnerable. CO poisoning causes pets to respond swiftly. If a family pet becomes ill or dies abruptly, and the death cannot be attributed to anything else, such as age or a pre-existing ailment, the owners should rule out CO poisoning as a possibility.
What is the source of CO?
In the past, several sections of the country relied on coal-based public gas sources. This gas, which contained carbon monoxide and was extremely toxic when unburned, became a popular method of suicide. Thankfully, the carbon monoxide burned along with the gas and was made harmless. Most direct sources of carbon monoxide (CO) have been restricted since then. CO is still an issue because it is produced to some extent anytime anything burns. Liquid fuels such as gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, or lamp oil; gases such as natural gas, LP gas, or propane; and solid fuels such as wood, paper, charcoal, or cloth are all examples.
Because natural gas (methane) contains no carbon monoxide, it is not dangerous in its unburned state. It’s also lighter than air, so if you give it a chance, it’ll float away.
Fortunately, larger levels of carbon monoxide are only produced when any of these situations occur with natural gas:
While burning, the burner flame “impinges” or touches metal.
The flame consumes less oxygen than it need to burn.
The flame re-burns previously burned air.
This is useful knowledge because many cooks like natural gas and it is commonly used. With gas, heat is evenly distributed, and changes are quick. Because the flames are visible and changeable, the heat is also easier to control. On a household gas stove, an open burner produces almost minimal carbon monoxide, but as soon as a metal pot is placed on the burner, CO output begins to climb. The ends of the burner flames are contacting the metal pot, which causes this.
Is it safe to heat my house with my oven or cooktop?
During the winter, residents keep their homes as warm as possible by closing the doors and windows as tightly as possible. Outside air has very little opportunity of entering the structure as a result of this. As the burners begin to operate, they will begin to burn “used” or oxygen-depleted air that has already been burned (re-burn.) When this happens, the oven will immediately start emitting large amounts of carbon monoxide. The same can be said about stovetop burners. They will eventually burn oxygen-depleted air and produce large amounts of carbon monoxide.
The most dangerous circumstance is re-burn, which is usually the cause of the few true CO fatalities that occur each year. Re-burn can also occur when an exhaust flue malfunctions, is obstructed or disconnected, or is being back-drafted by another source such as an attic or exhaust fan, or an open window on a windy day. The gas burners use oxygen and release carbon dioxide and water vapor as they operate. The oxygen level in the area begins to drop over time, and the flames consume more carbon dioxide and produce enormous amounts of carbon monoxide (CO). When the flames start producing CO, the rate swiftly increases until the inside air becomes fatal.
When used for long periods of time in a tight place, any small non-vented gas heater becomes dangerous due to re-burn. Open flame construction heaters, radiant heaters, overhead linear radiant heaters, and cook stoves are all examples of this.
Any amount of carbon monoxide in the air you breathe should be taken seriously. The long-term consequences of continuous low-level exposure have not been thoroughly studied. There have been no long-term studies that have looked at the overall effects of living in a CO-rich environment. Even safety agencies (both public and private) come to differing judgments about what constitutes a safe level of exposure.
Are there any other CO sources to be aware of?
CO gas can be produced by household appliances such as gas-fired boilers, central heating systems, water heaters, stoves, and open fires that use gas, oil, coal, or wood. A blocked flue in a wood-burning fireplace can be fatal. Within 10 minutes, CO poisoning can be caused by an idle car engine in a confined location.
If household appliances are properly maintained and utilized securely, they should emit very little CO gas. CO emissions are increased when aging appliances are used and not serviced on a regular basis.
CO levels in the blood grow as a result of smoking cigarettes. CO gas is produced when charcoal is burned. CO cannot escape through clogged flues and chimneys. CO poisoning can be caused by fumes from certain paint removers and cleaning products. Methylene chloride (dichloromethane)-containing products should be handled with caution since when breathed in, it converts to CO.