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Understanding Carbon Monoxide Levels | By: Dirk Elsass

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Many people only think of furnaces when they hear about CO poisoning, however, all products and equipment powered by fuel-burning engines produce CO. This includes furnaces, ovens/ranges, water heaters and room heaters; engine-powered equipment such as portable generators; fireplaces; and charcoal that is burned in homes and other enclosed areas.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that several thousand people go to hospital emergency rooms every year to be treated for CO poisoning…and, unfortunately, some individuals die from CO exposure.

Because CO is undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed. The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). These include: 

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms (some of which can be irreversible), including: 

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death

So when should you be concerned? The following chart from the Habegger Corporation (Bryant furnace distributor) outlines exposure levels to carbon monoxide and its effects. These levels are generic in nature as the actual effects of CO poisoning depend on many factors like age, health, duration of exposure and levels of exposure.

1-9 ppm

Maximum levels for living environment

10-34 ppm

Considered normal traffic for unvented appliances.   Can have affects if elevated or stays in this range for long periods of time.

35 ppm

This is the maximum allowable concentration of CO for an 8-hour day. Exposure levels are in direct relationship to the amount of hour’s exposed.

36-99 ppm

Turn off appliances and evacuate the home or building. Do not enter until carbon monoxide readings reach a safe level.

100 ppm

Do not test at these levels. Contact 911. Levels over 100 ppm can increase quickly; not allowing the investigator time to locate the source before levels are fatal.

200 ppm

If exposed to levels above this amount, headache, nausea, and dizziness will develop in about 2-3 hours.

800 ppm

Within 2 hours at these levels, individuals will become unconscious, possible death after 2-3 hours.

1600 ppm

Immediate symptoms and death within 1 hour

12,800 ppm

Death in 1-3 minutes

Hero Heating & Cooling offers a comprehensive, whole-house Carbon Monoxide Evaluation for as little as $149.00. Using advanced, highly sensitive monitoring equipment, our carbon monoxide tests can offer real-time assessment of the precise carbon monoxide emission levels produced by the fuel-burning appliances in your home. A computerized print-out of your CO levels is provided for your records. In addition, an analysis of positive and negative pressures throughout the property is completed to ensure that CO emissions are vented outside of the property.

With the potential dangers associated with elevated carbon monoxide levels in buildings, professional testing and assessment is a cost-effective way to ensure the safety of everyone in your premises.

This is a serious subject…

First and foremost, Carbon Monoxide detectors should be installed in every home. Additionally, if you suspect that you have a carbon monoxide leak in your home, you should open the windows, get everyone outside, and then call the 24 hour gas emergency line at 800–362–7557. If anyone in the home is experiencing CO poisoning symptoms, call 911. Once the emergency has been cleared by the fire department and/or Gas Company, contact the experts at Hero Heating & Cooling at 330-361-4445 for repairs.

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