New Jersey Home Inspectors - New Jersey Home Inspections

Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning In Home

Carbon monoxide (CO), a poisonous gas that is both colorless and odorless, generates from incomplete combustion of certain fuels, such as coal, wood, oil, or petroleumgas (natural or liquefied).


The Physiology of CO Poisoning

Carbon monoxide, when inhaled, displaces the oxygen that would normally bind with hemoglobin, effectively suffocating the body. Even in low concentrations, CO can poison over a period of only several hours. Sensitive organs, particularly the lungs, brain, and heart, are affected the most significantly from a lack of oxygen.

Highly concentrated, carbon monoxide can cause death in less than five minutes. In lower concentrations, it requires a greater amount of time to cause damage to the body. Exposure for more than 8 hours to concentrations in excess of 9 parts per million (ppm) may have seriously detrimental health affects. For a worker in good health, the limit of exposure to carbon monoxideis 50 ppm,as stated by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Possible Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Any appliance which burns fuel and is either malfunctioning or was not installed properly can generate carbon monoxide.This can include:

PPM % CO in Air Health Effects in Healthy Adults Source/Comments
0 0% No effects. This is the normal level in a properly functioning appliance  
35 .0035% Maximumpermissible exposure limit in the workplace for an eight-hour shift The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
50 .005% Maximumpermissible exposure limit in the workplace for an eight-hour shift OSHA
100 .01% Mild headache, shortness of breath, fatigue, and errors in judgment occur.  
125 .0125%   Workplace alarm must sound (OSHA).
200 .02% Headache, fatigue, dizziness, and nausea are present.  
400 .04% Severe headache, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and confusion develop. This situation can be life-threatening after three hours of exposure. Evacuate area immediately.
800 .08% Convulsions and loss of consciousness occur, resulting in death within three hours. Evacuate area immediately.
12,000 1.2% Nearly instant death occurs.  

Guidelines For Carbon Monoxide Detector Placement

CO detectors are effective in the monitoring exposure levels, but should not be placed:

Do place CO detectors:

Throughout North America, many municipalities on the local, state, and national levels require the installation of CO detectors in all new and existing homes, as well as in commercial business structures, among them areNew Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota, Vermont, New York City, and Ontario. Installers are encouraged to inquire with their local municipality in order to determine exactly what specific requirements exist in their area.

What Can I Do to Prevent CO Poisoning?

Carbon monoxide is a potentially deadly poison that can be generated by numerous household appliances. Strategic placement of CO detectors throughout the home or place of business is a must in order to alert occupants of any present high levels of the gas.

Look Smart Home Inspections