A guide to carbon monoxide...

Carbon monoxide facts (and myths)

Carbon monoxide is formed by the incomplete combustion (burning) of materials containing carbon and can be produced by virtually anything that burns.

Carbon monoxide does not smell in and of itself. It is odorless, colorless, tasteless, non-irritating and toxic.

Carbon monoxide is very similar in weight to air and will easily mix and flow with the natural air flow in a building or enclosed area.

Carbon monoxide occurs naturally at low levels in our bodies as well as in the air. It is required in tiny quantities for normal cellular fuctioning.

There are a massive number of potential sources of carbon monoxide in the modern world.

Exposure to unsafe levels of carbon monoxide is dangerous to people, animals, and other oxygen breathing organisms.

Carbon monoxide poisoning causes a number of symptoms while in the body as well as short term symptoms and effects and long term effects from carbon monoxide related damage to the brain, nervous system, heart, endocrine system, and other cells in the body.

As the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic so many common health conditions, the real scope of the "carbon monoxide problem" is vastly under-recognised and carbon monoxide statistics are wrong!

Commonly mistaken as facts about carbon monoxide

Precautions only need to be taken during the cold season

Not so! Many homes use fuel burning appliances to cook, heat water and even dry clothes. Some have wood fireplaces for decorative appeal. Small engine yard/garden tools also produce carbon monoxide.

You are at the greatest danger of CO poisoning in a vehicle

Not so! Statistically you are at most risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in your own home.

Carbon monoxide is only caused by gas appliances

Not so! All fossil fuels including oil, gasoline (petrol), natural gas, coal and propane are dangerous. As well as the burning of many other materials.

More tenants than homeowners are poisoned by carbon monoxide

Not so! Far more homeowners are poisoned than tenants.

All I need to do is service my furnace and I will safe

Not so! While servicing is a good start you also need to make sure that the chimney flu and the fresh air intake are free from obstruction. Be aware that renovations (especially new bathroom/kitchen exhaust fans and clothes dryers) can also change the air balance in a home and make carbon monoxide levels rise.

I have a carbon monoxide detector so I am safe

Not so! You are only safe from acute carbon monoxide poisoning if the CO detector is properly installed, has battery working batteries, and is less than 5 years old.

Carbon monoxide alarm standards do not protect from low level multiple poisonings. Only a low level carbon monoxide detector will do this.

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