Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, deadly gas. It can kill you before you know it because you can't see it, taste it, or smell it. At lower levels of exposure, it can cause health problems. Some people may be more vulnerable to CO poisoning such as:

  • Children
  • Fetuses
  • Infants
  • Senior citizens
  • Those with heart or lung problems and other chronic illnesses

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

When an individual breathes in CO, it accumulates in the blood and forms a toxic compound known as carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the bloodstream to cells and tissue. Carbon monoxide attaches itself to hemoglobin and displaces the oxygen that the body's organs need.

Carboxyhemoglobin can cause:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Nausea

Later stages of CO poisoning can cause vomiting, loss of consciousness, and eventually brain damage or death. If occupants of the home are experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning, you should call 911 immediately. This is especially true if there are multiple occupants with these symptoms.

CO Sources

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of the combustion of fossil fuels. Fumes from automobiles contain high levels of CO. Some appliances produce CO, such as:

  • Charcoal grills
  • Clothes dryers
  • Fireplaces
  • Gas furnaces
  • Ovens
  • Ranges
  • Space heaters
  • Water heaters
  • Wood burning stoves

Carbon monoxide usually is vented to the outside if appliances function correctly and the home is vented properly. Problems occur when furnace heat exchangers crack or vents and chimneys become blocked. Insulation sometimes can trap CO in the home.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Delhi Township Fire Department recommend installing at least one carbon monoxide detector with an audible alarm near the bedrooms. If a home has more than one story, a detector should be placed on each story.

Be sure the detector has a testing laboratory label.

CO Source Checklist

The following is a checklist when looking for problem sources of CO in the home:

  1. A forced air furnace is frequently the source of leaks and should be carefully inspected
    • Measure the concentration of carbon monoxide in the flue gases
    • Check furnace connections to flue pipes and venting systems to the outside of the home for signs of corrosion, rust gaps, holes
    • Check furnace filters and filtering systems for dirt and blockage
    • Check forced air fans for proper installation and to assure correct airflow of flue gases. Improper furnace blower installation can result in carbon monoxide build-up because toxic gas is blown into rather than out of the house
    • Check the combustion chamber and internal heat exchanger for cracks, holes, metal fatigue or corrosion. Be sure they are clean and free of debris
    • Check burners and ignition system. A flame that is mostly yellow in color in natural gas fired furnaces is often a sign that the fuel is not burning completely and higher levels of carbon monoxide are being released. Oil furnaces with similar problems can give off an oily odor. Remember you can't smell carbon monoxide
  2. Check all venting systems to the outside including flues and chimneys for cracks, corrosion, holes, debris, blockages. Animals and birds can build nests in chimneys preventing gases from escaping
  3. Check all other appliances in the home that use flammable fuels such as natural gas, oil, propane, wood or kerosene. For a list of appropriate appliances, check this page under the "CO Sources" heading
    • Pilot lights can be a source of carbon monoxide because the by-products of combustion are released inside the home rather than vented outside
    • Be sure space heaters are vented properly. Unvented space heaters that use a flammable fuel such as kerosene can release carbon monoxide into the home
    • Barbecue grills should never be operated indoors under any circumstance nor should stovetops or ovens that operate on flammable fuels be used to heat a residence
    • Check fireplaces for closed, blocked, or bent flues, and soot or debris
    • Check clothes dryer vent openings outside the house for lint

If you feel you are having any problems with CO, you should contact a qualified contractor to evaluate the problem and make the necessary repairs. Residents of Delhi Township may contact their Fire Department at 513-922-2011 to have homes checked for the presence of carbon monoxide if your carbon monoxide alarm is sounding or you feel there is a problem.