What is Carbon Monoxide and what produces it?
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, otherwise known as CO, is a colourless, odour-free gas which is highly toxic and can cause acute illness and, in worst-case scenarios, death. The gas is made up of carbon and oxygen.
How is it produced?
CO is produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels, such as coal, oil, charcoal, wood, kerosene, natural gas and propane.
Common sources of carbon monoxide
Sources of carbon monoxide in the home environment can include fuel-burning devices such as: boilers, furnaces, water heaters, fireplaces, charcoal grills, gas and kerosene heaters, gas and wood stoves and clothes dryers. Common outdoor objects that emit CO are: camp stoves, open fire, barbeque's, lawnmowers, generators, motors vehicles and power tools that contain internal combustion engines. Cigarette and cigar smoking is also a common cause of carbon monoxide pollution.
Common sources of carbon monoxide in the workplace are warehouses, which operate propane-powered forklift trucks, floor polishers and space heaters, gas-powered concrete cutters, pressure washers and air compressors. Whilst these devices are normally harmless when operated outdoors (due to the air dissipating the dangerous gases), if operated in a confined space, they can prove deadly, so plenty of ventilation must be provided if they are to be used indoors.
- Carbon monoxide (CO) is commonly confused with carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is a gas used in carbonated drinks and is also the same gas breathed out by humans.
- CO poisoning is not caused by faulty appliances, but by lack of air movement. For example, a gas boiler may be operating properly but if the flue is blocked or defective, CO can vent into your home and kill you.
- Many people believe that carbon monoxide is not a big problem. In fact, it's the main cause of death by poisoning in the country, contributing to over 10,000 illnesses and up to 50 deaths per year.
What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
Common symptoms are: headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, weakness, confusion and chest pain. If you are asleep or intoxicated, you can die from CO poisoning before you even exhibit symptoms.
How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning at home?
- Make sure that all of your fuel-burning appliances (e.g. gas cookers and fireplaces) are inspected by a trained professional each year.
- Purchase carbon monoxide detectors for your home and get them professionally fitted and regularly tested.
- Ensure that any new fuel-burning appliances are professionally installed, properly vented and regularly serviced according to manufacturers’ instructions.