The Healthy Home Network
Combustion Gases Print E-mail

water heaterCarbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure.

Un-vented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline powered equipment; automobile exhaust from attached garages; and tobacco smoke. Incomplete oxidation during combustion in gas ranges and un-vented gas or kerosene heaters may cause high concentrations of CO in indoor air. Worn or poorly adjusted and maintained combustion devices (e.g., boilers, furnaces) can be significant sources, or if the flue is improperly sized, blocked, disconnected, or is leaking.  Auto, truck, or bus exhaust from attached garages, nearby roads, or parking areas can also be a source.

At low concentrations, CO can cause fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, It can cause impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea. In addition CO can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving the source whether it be home or work. It is fatal at high concentrations. Acute effects are due to the formation of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood, which inhibits oxygen intake.  At moderate concentrations, angina, impaired vision, and reduced brain function may result. At higher concentrations, CO exposure can be fatal.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)