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What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous, odorless, tasteless gas. It is formed by the incomplete combustion of carbon, or the incomplete burning of natural gas and other things that contain carbon. It can often be mixed with other gasses with odors. Carbon monoxide can result from the burning of any of these, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal, wood and other things. It is also a byproduct of an internal combustion engine.

What is Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

When CO is inhaled it displaces the oxygen in your blood and therefor deprives the heart, brain and organs of oxygen. The severity of exposure is related to the level of carbon monoxide in the air and the duration of exposure. If there is a large amount present, it would work very quickly and suddenly causing a person to pass out or suffocate.

A slow leak at home may cause gradual and mild symptoms that you may not notice until its too late A fast and high leak, typical in more industrial environments, would cause sudden exposure, loss of muscle control and in some cases death.

The CDC estimates that 400 people per year die of carbon monoxide poisoning, 20,000 more visit the emergency room and 4,000 people are hospitalized.

What are the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Symptoms range from mild flu like symptoms to more serious and dramatic symptoms. The severity is again related to the levels and length of exposure.

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • upset stomach
  • vomiting
  • chest pain
  • confusion
  • shortness of breath
  • blurred vision
  • loss of consciousness

Carbon monoxide can be especially dangerous to people that are sleeping or intoxicated and also for young children and elderly. It may cause death before any symptoms are noted.

What is a dangerous Carbon Monoxide Level?

Most people will have no symptoms at 1-70 ppms. If you have someone in your house that is more susceptible, such a a very young or very old person you may see symptoms at any level. But for the average person you won’t see any symptoms until the levels get above 70 ppms. A 150-200 ppm level will cause disorientation, unconsciousness and death.

Bryant COALM Preferred Series Carbon Monoxide AlarmHow can I prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

There are a number of things that you can do to prevent poisoning and keep the CO levels in your residence down.

  • Make sure you operate all appliances according the manufacturers guidelines. Make sure you read all owners manuals before attempting to service and clean. Never service your fuel burning appliances yourself. Have a trained professional to install, service and clean any appliances that require combustion of some kind.
  • Have your heating system inspected annually for any leaks or potential blockages, corrosion or disconnections.
  • Never run any gasoline powered appliance or generator in or near and enclosed space. Even with proper ventilation CO levels can build up rapidly and cause death or loss of consciousness. The same is true for any kind of combustable appliance which includes camping stoves, gas grills, and other things that burn fuel.
  • Do not use your gas stove or other appliances to heat your home.
  • Never leave your gar running in the garage, even with the door open.
  • Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector. CO alarms are a device that measure the level of carbon monoxide in the air and can alert you when levels reach too high. Although this is not a substitute for proper carbon monoxide safety procedures, this can help aid in protection. Install an alarm near any area where people sleep. People that are sleeping are often the most at risk of death. They can breath in lethal doses of CO before the would ever wake up and exhibit symptoms.

At Willamette HVAC we want t help keep your family healthy. If you are in the Hillsboro, Portland Metro, Beaverton or Forest Grove or ANY of the surrounding communities, please call us with any questions you have about Carbon Monoxice or any other general HVAC inquiries. You can also request service online. See our service area page for more information.

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