The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide


Carbon monoxide (CO) is perhaps the most dangerous gas that can enter your home. Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless gas that often goes undetected, striking victims off guard or in their sleep. Even low concentrations can be enough to cause a negative health impact, especially on those with chronic illnesses, the elderly, young children and pregnant women. If CO gas levels are high enough, you may become unconscious or die. High-level exposure can cause permanent damage or even death in a very short period of time.

The gas, also known as the “invisible killer” is produced by burning fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, portable generators or furnaces. Winter can be a prime time for carbon monoxide poisoning as people turn on their heating systems and mistakenly warm their cars in garages. As the weather turns colder, it’s important to take extra precautions.

When the gas builds up in enclosed spaces, people or animals who breathe it can be poisoned. Ventilation in many cases may not guarantee safety however, in today’s world of improved insulation and double glazing it has become increasingly important to have good ventilation, maintain all appliances regularly and to have reliable detector alarms installed. This helps to give both a visual and audible warning there’s a build-up of CO gas to dangerous levels.

Symptoms of Exposure to CO

Carbon monoxide poisoning is when certain symptoms develop from overexposure to CO gas. When carbon monoxide is inhaled, it replaces oxygen in the blood, which may cause symptoms including tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, confusion or chest pain.

More serious symptoms from exposure to higher concentrations of carbon monoxide include; irritability, impaired judgement and coordination, memory loss, rapid heart rate, difficulty concentrating, sensitivity to light, sound and odours, as well as loss of consciousness leading to death.

The long-term effects of low levels of carbon monoxide exposure can vary greatly in type and severity. Illnesses and other conditions that could develop also include; pains and cramps, vision or cardiac problems, sensations of pins and needles, emotional instability, depression, hallucinations, difficulty sleeping and hearing loss.

Interruption of the normal supply of oxygen puts at risk the functions of the heart, brain and other vital functions of the body. Persons suffering from heart or respiratory health problems, infants and small children, unborn children, expectant mothers and pets can be affected by CO gas poisoning more quickly than others in the household and may be the first to show symptoms.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide

All combustion appliances that burn natural gas, oil, coal, charcoal, propane or wood produce carbon monoxide. These appliances are a necessity to cook food, heat our homes and perform other tasks. These include; gas furnaces, boilers and water heaters, fireplaces, gas ovens and stoves, generators, lawn mowers, camping stoves, as well as cars, boats and other engines.

Combustion appliances are usually safely vented to the exterior or used outside in order for the carbon monoxide to dissipate harmlessly into the air. Unvented appliances that produce carbon monoxide should never be used indoors. A car idling in a closed garage or a generator used inside can produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide within just 10 minutes.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can happen within a matter of minutes and is responsible for more deaths than any other single poison. Protection against this deadly poison may be detected by installing a simple carbon monoxide detector in your home or office.

At the beginning of every heating season as winter approaches, homeowners should routinely have their fuel-burning appliances checked by a qualified technician. Appliances deteriorate with time and can be a health risk to those who live in the home. It’s vital to also ensure combustion appliances vent outside safely and only use unvented appliances outdoors however, you never know if a leak might develop.

Besides having your appliances inspected, those using fuel-burning appliances should have their homes equipped with carbon monoxide detectors to provide added peace of mind. Appliances can break down any time of year so it is important to have a back-up system in place to keep you informed when CO gas levels increase.

A CO gas detector should be placed on every floor in the home to provide the best protection. Ideally, they should be installed on every floor of your home, or at least one right outside each sleeping area and one on the same floor as your gas furnace and water heater. The best location is on or near the ceiling since carbon monoxide tends to rise with the hot air that contains it.

It’s also vital to know how CO gas detectors work to help maximise security. These devices sound an alarm when they sense an above-normal concentration of carbon monoxide. It’s crucial that you follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions and make note of the suggested replacement date.

When a carbon monoxide alarm sounds it’s imperative not to ignore it and to not try and find the source of the gas. Be sure instead, to immediately move outside to fresh air, call emergency services, account for everyone with a head count and do not re-enter the premises.

PSA Products are proud to have safeguarded the homes of Australian families for more than 30 years, with our wide range of fire, security and intercom solutions. The newly launched LIFESAVER LIFCO9D Battery Carbon Monoxide Alarm and the LIFCO240 Carbon Monoxide Alarm uses the most advanced technology to detect toxic levels of CO gas that occur suddenly or accumulate slowly over time.

Please get in touch with the friendly and knowledgeable team at PSA Products today to find out more about our home safety solutions and how we can help protect your residential or commercial building for years to come.