In reality, there are lots of severe injuries or even deaths resulting from Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning. The majority of undesirable incidents may come from subjectivity and lack of knowledge about that invisible killer.
If you know how to detect low levels of Carbon Monoxide, this danger will be preventable and controllable. Hence, an overview of knowledge and warnings about CO are discussed hereafter. Read until the end for valuable information.
What Is Carbon Monoxide?
In general, CO is an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas that usually comes from the progress of burning fuels, especially the incomplete combustion ones.
Carbon monoxide is harmful to our bodies because of the mechanisms displacing the oxygen in our cells. Then, CO molecules lead our bodies to a state of shortage of oxygen and poisoning.
CO can build up quickly. High levels of this gas can lead to poison and death in a few minutes.
Sources Of Carbon Monoxide
CO is produced from the combustion of fuel. Therefore, it is present in the smoke and fumes emitted from machinery, engines, and tools involved in the combustion process.
Types of fuels, household appliances, and other possible causes that can generate this gas in homes are listed hereafter.
Types Of Fuel Used
This kind of fuel is usually used in stoves, fireplaces, or furnaces.
Gasoline is essential for transportation nowadays. It is also a fuel for lawnmowers and some maintenance equipment.
- Natural gas
This is the most relatable to our daily lives. Natural gas is utilized for heating and cooking. It is the main fuel for heating systems, stovetops, laundry dryers, etc.
This kind of gas is also used for the same purposes as natural gas. Although they have different characteristics, we will not discuss them in-depth here.
There are multiple household appliances that can emit Carbon Monoxide. Hereafter is some potential CO sources:
- Clothes dryers
- Water heaters
- Gas stoves
- Furnaces and boilers
Other Possible Causes
Possible causes can come from unprofessional or improper installation and venting of household appliances.
Some examples that appliances are improperly installed
- Yellow or orange flame in gas burners
- Streaks of soot around appliances
- Excess moisture
How To Detect Low Levels Of Carbon Monoxide
To know how to test for carbon monoxide at home, we need to know the signs in terms of visualization and physical changes in our bodies. Besides, thanks to the development of technology, a tool called the carbon monoxide detector also help us to detect low levels of CO.
By observation, we can recognize signs of CO leakage or buildup.
- Black, sooty marks on the covers of gas fires
- Heavy condensation at the place of appliances installed
- Sooty or yellow stains around boilers, stoves, or fires
- Smoke, fume build up in rooms
- Solid-based fuels burn slower than usual
- Yellow or orange flame in gas burners
Signs Of Physical Symptoms
Moreover, some signs of carbon monoxide poisoning take place in our bodies. In this part, we will explore what does carbon monoxide do to the body.
Generally, Carbon Monoxide molecules take the place of oxygen in the blood. At that time, organs that are not supplied with enough oxygen will become weak and delicate. In addition, CO can also combine with proteins in the body and damage our cells and organs. Some changes in bodies are symptoms of CO poisoning, including:
- Chest pains
The above symptoms gradually disappear whenever we go out. Another sign is that our pets also become weak, tired, and sick.
In addition, pay attention to the intensity of the symptoms when using fuel-burning appliances.
Using A Carbon Monoxide Detector
A carbon monoxide detector is designed to measure the intensity of carbon monoxide in the air (in parts per million or ppm). The alarm of the detector sounds whenever the concentration of CO is at the level of danger.
There are different types of CO detectors. The alarms can be hard-wired, battery-based, plug-in devices, etc. Depending on certain circumstances and conditions, we choose the most suitable ones for rooms to avoid unwelcome accidents.
Symptoms & Treatments Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
First Signs Of CO Poisoning
The truth is that it is hard to certainly determine the signs of CO poisoning, especially during long-term exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide. However, if we carefully pay attention to our physical changes and those visible signs above, we may recognize and solve them. As mentioned before, the first symptoms of CO poisoning include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Nausea, feeling sick
The longer we are exposed to the gas, the worse the symptoms will be. It can lead to balance loss, vision blur, or even consciousness loss. It may occur:
- The feeling of the surrounding environment is spinning
- A heart rate is increasing by more than 100 bpm
- Chest pain caused by angina or a heart attack
- Muscle spasms
- Faint and loss of consciousness
N.B. The above low level carbon monoxide symptoms are similar to flu. However, the distinguished point is that Carbon Monoxide poisoning does not cause a high temperature.
According to the National Health Service (NHS) of the UK, around 10 – 15% of severe CO poisoning cases develop long-term complications. They may include
- Brain damage
CO has negative effects on memory ability and concentration. It can result in vision or hearing loss. In rare cases, severe CO poisoning is a factor for Parkinsonism.
- Heart disease
As NHS stated, severe carbon monoxide exposure can cause coronary heart disease, later leading to angina (chest pains) and even heart attack.
- Harm to unborn babies
Some negative impacts on babies include low weight, perinatal death (stillbirth and death within the first 4 weeks of birth), or suffering behavioral problems.
How To Deal With Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
If CO builds up and causes symptoms, move out and open all doors and windows to ventilate and let fresh air in as a carbon monoxide poisoning treatment at home in an emergency.
Carbon monoxide poisoning treatment requires carefulness. Hence, if one is exposed to CO, seeking medical advice from experts such as a doctor is optimal. Those who have medical knowledge should understand the conditions and give the best approachable solution on time.
Precisely, a blood test will measure the carboxyhemoglobin in-stream blood to diagnose carbon monoxide poisoning.
Solutions For Reducing Risks Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Aware Of The Signs
We need to notice the visible signs of household appliances & physical body symptoms to respond to incidents immediately.
Maintenance And Installation
- Install household appliances according to the manufacturer’s requirements and a qualified technician.
- Regularly maintain and service household appliances equipment to avoid CO leakage.
- Ensure ventilation rules to avoid CO accumulation.
- Install CO detectors for safety.
- Never burn charcoal or wood in enclosed spaces.
- Do not sleep in enclosed rooms with a gas fire or paraffin heater.
- Turn off burn-fuel appliances when not in use.
- Make sure rooms are well ventilated.
Are Some Groups Of People Encounter A Higher Risk Of CO Poisoning?
Yes. There are higher risks to certain groups of people. In terms of ages, they are:
- Unborn babies
- Older adults (at the age of 65 and older)
In addition, people with physical problems or negative habits may be at higher risks, such as:
- Those who usually smoke
- People with chronic heart disease or anemia
- People with breathing problems. For example, asthma or emphysema.
How Long Do CO Alarms Last?
All equipment has a limited lifetime, and so do carbon monoxide detectors. In general, the lifespan may vary between manufacturers.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, most alarms need to be replaced every 5 – 7 years. We should look at the manufacturer’s manual to get the suggested replacement schedule.
What Should I Do When The CO Alarm Sounds?
- Don’t ignore the sound.
- Move outside for fresh air.
- If exhibiting symptoms of CO poisoning, call relevant parties for help such as emergency services, hospital, etc.
- If all residents feel fine, contact the gas utility company or a qualified technician to check the problem.
- Do not re-enter the home until it’s confirmed safe.
In conclusion, carbon monoxide leakage and buildup result in light to severe symptoms. All we need to notice is to recognize the signs to answer the question of how to detect low levels of carbon monoxide.
Then, practice the approachable solutions to prevent damage to health and life. The more we pay attention to signs, the better the carbon monoxide poisoning we control.