Monday, January 4, 2010

Carbon Monoxide - 5 things you may not know.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that is very toxic to humans and animals. It is important to know how exposure to CO can affect you and your family. You may have heard a lot about carbon monoxide lately but there are some things you may not know.

1. Colorado and 24 other states now have laws or ordinances requiring the installation of Carbon Monoxide Detectors in homes. 
Colorado House Bill 09-1091
Other States: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin. (Link to some state statutes)

2. Long term exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can cause health problems.
Chronic exposure to relatively low levels of carbon monoxide may cause persistent headaches, lightheadedness, depression, confusion, memory loss, nausea and vomiting. It is unknown whether low-level chronic exposure may cause permanent neurological damage. Typically, upon removal from exposure to carbon monoxide, symptoms usually resolve themselves, unless there has been an episode of severe acute poisoning. Wikipedia Info 

Although no standards for CO have been agreed upon for indoor air, the following information may be helpful:
 The U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards for outdoor air are 9 ppm (40,000 micrograms per meter cubed) for 8 hours, and 35 ppm for 1 hour.
OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration) limits long-term work place exposure to less than 50 ppm
EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates the typical level of CO in homes is less than 15 ppm.

3. Carbon Monoxide Detectors units should be REPLACED and batteries changed regularly. If you don’t know how old your CO detector is or don’t know the manufacturers’ recommended replacement time, replace yours TODAY!
When carbon monoxide detectors were introduced into the market, they had a limited lifespan of 2 years. However technology developments have increased this and many now advertise 5 or even 6 years. Newer models are designed to signal a need to be replaced after that time span although there are many instances of detectors operating far beyond this point.

4. There are different types of CO detectors.
Alarm only- This type of detector will sound an audible alarm when CO levels reach dangerous levels. According to 
Underwriters Laboratory Standards the response time for CO alarms is as follows:
At 70 parts per million: Unit must sound alarm within 60-240 minutes.
At 150 parts per million: Unit must sound alarm within 10-50 minutes.
At 400 parts per million: Unit must sound alarm within 4-15 minutes.

Continuous Monitoring (Digital) - Although all home detectors use an audible alarm signal as the primary indicator, some versions also offer a digital readout of the CO concentration. This allows homeowners to aware of any potential for long term exposure problems along with problems that may have occurred in their absence.

Wireless - Wireless home safety solutions are available that link carbon monoxide detectors to vibrating pillow pads, strobes or a remote warning handset. This allows those with impediments such as hard of hearing, partially sighted, heavy sleepers or the infirm the precious minutes to wake up and get out in the event of carbon monoxide in their property.

5. You can prevent CO poisoning in your home.
• Install a CO detector in your home. Refer to the manufacturers instructions for proper installation, operation and maintenance. Detectors available at Ace Hardware Alameda Station

• Replace your CO detector and any batteries regularly.
• Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to manufacturer’s instructions.
• Have the heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil or coal burning appliances serviced every year by a qualified technician.
• Have chimneys and vents inspected and serviced regularly.
• Visually examine vents and chimneys regularly for improper connections, cracks, rust or stains.
• Make sure to read your CO alarm's user’s guide and keep it near your CO alarm for quick reference.
• Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters (catalytic) indoors. Although these heaters don't have a flame, they burn gas and can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.
• When purchasing gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as the American Gas Association or Underwriters' Laboratories.

For more information: 
Home Safe Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation US EPA