Carbon Monoxide will become a danger to many people if we are forced to heat and cook with alternate methods. It is a gas that is not well understood by the majority of the population. In the past, I have helped investigate and carry out the bodies of several people who have died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas, but because it is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and it is very difficult for most people to detect. Exposures at 100 parts per million (ppm) or greater can be hazardous. Carbon monoxide is not toxic in the usual sense. Carbon monoxide like oxygen combines with the hemoglobin in your blood. When it combines with the blood, it forms a complex called carboxy-hemoglobin which staves the blood of oxygen. This results in internal suffocation.
Breathing a concentration of 1600 (ppm) can kill a normal person in two hours. Carbon monoxide is not heavier than air. The diffusion of carbon monoxide in air is relatively even, meaning carbon monoxide is distributed evenly throughout the area.
Where does come from?
Carbon monoxide is found in combustion fumes produced by cars and trucks, gasoline engines, camp stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, gas or kerosene stoves and many heating systems. Carbon monoxide from these sources can accumulate in enclosed spaces.
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. People are often exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning at night when sleeping. This often results from the failure of heating systems. Most people that are subject to carbon monoxide poisoning in their sleep never wake up. They die in their sleep. I have seen this result from faulty heating systems, using charcoal to heat homes and the use of heaters in tents. A case occurred when a family was using a generator in a garage to power their home. The children went to sleep with the generator running; the parents were in another part of the home. The fumes filtered into the children’s bedroom killing them.
Each year, more than 1000 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and more than 4,000 are hospitalized due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
How to prevent it
Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
Never burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t properly vented.
Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris, birds’ nests or other causes.
Always make sure your vent pipes are properly maintained. Keep the needed materials on hand to repair them safely if they need repairs.
Horizontal vent pipes to fuel appliances should not be perfectly level but should slant upward towards the outside. This helps prevent carbon monoxide or other gases from leaking if the joints or pipes aren’t fitted tightly.
What can I do to heat my house or cook safely if the power is out?
Never use a gas range or oven for heating. Using a gas range or oven for heating can cause an accumulation of carbon monoxide in your home.
Beware of using a charcoal grill or a barbecue grill inside. Charcoal gives off carbon monoxide.
Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors for example a Coleman stove without proper venting.
Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window, door, or vent where fumes can enter the home.
If you have a properly vented fireplace, you can cook with charcoal or a gas stove as long as the cooking is done inside the fireplace and the fumes vent outside through the chimney. Do not use these for heating while sleeping.
If a person has been exposed to carbon monoxide, immediately move him or her to fresh air. Seek immediate medical help. Treatment of poisoning largely consists of administering 100% oxygen
The following chart shows the effects of carbon monoxide ppm.
|35 ppm (0.0035%)||Headache and dizziness within six to eight hours of constant exposure|
|100 ppm (0.01%)||Slight headache in two to three hours|
|200 ppm (0.02%)||Slight headache within two to three hours; loss of judgment|
|400 ppm (0.04%)||Frontal headache within one to two hours|
|800 ppm (0.08%)||Dizziness, nausea, and convulsions within 45 min; insensible within 2 hours|
|1,600 ppm (0.16%)||Headache, tachycardia, dizziness, and nausea within 20 min; death in less than 2 hours|
|3,200 ppm (0.32%)||Headache, dizziness and nausea in five to ten minutes. Death within 30 minutes.|
|6,400 ppm (0.64%)||Headache and dizziness in one to two minutes. Convulsions, respiratory arrest, and death in less than 20 minutes.|
|12,800 ppm (1.28%)||Unconsciousness after 2–3 breaths. Death in less than three minutes.|
I am sure some of you remember your grandparents violating some of these rules in past years. You also need to remember that their houses were often drafty and not well insulated. Modern homes are much better sealed. It is also surmised that due to the lack of diagnostic methods that many carbon monoxide poisoning deaths were never recognized.