What Causes Carbon Monoxide?

What causes Carbon Monoxide? Carbon Monoxide dangers. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that is produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels. This fuel consists of natural gas,...

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that is produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels. This fuel consists of natural gas, gasoline, oil, propane, wood burning, running cars, or appliances. Carbon monoxide is also produced from incomplete combustion of many natural and synthetic products, such as cigarette smoke. Problems with carbon monoxide arise when there is improper installation, maintenance or inadequate ventilation.

According to EPA.gov, if appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of gas that is produced is not hazardous; however, if the appliances are not properly working, the amount of gas that is produced is deadly.

"Actually, when you have an incomplete combustion, that is when carbon monoxide will start being produced," says Ray Gonzalez, who is the manager of Safety and Regulation Compliance at Texas Gas Service in Austin, Texas. He has more than 20 years of experience in the gas industry. "For example, if you have any type of gas burning fuel being burned by an appliance, if it has not been burned properly, then that appliance will start producing carbon monoxide."

There are different levels of carbon monoxide that are produced. As the gas level increases and remains above 70ppm, symptoms become noticeable. As the levels increase to 150 to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness and death occur.

"If you have a chimney that is burning wood, and some of that smoke gets into the circulation of the air that has been produced by the furnace, that can also make the furnace produce carbon monoxide," says Gonzalez.

When carbon monoxide gets into the body, the gas combines with natural chemicals in the blood and stops the oxygen from flowing to cells, tissues and organs. Thousands of people die from Carbon Monoxide poisoning every year because of improperly used fuel-burning appliances. According to EPA.gov, even more die from idling cars. Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart of respiratory disease can be especially susceptible.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning consist of headaches, dizziness, confusion, nausea, or faintness. Death can be a result for people who are exposed at long lengths to the poisoning. Low levels will bring about shortness of breath, mild nausea, mild headaches and long-term health effects. A body needs oxygen for energy, so high level exposures to carbon monoxide can cause serious health effects and even death. The effects of the deadly gas can be confused with the flu or food poisoning.

"If you were to walk inside a home, your eyes would itch," says Gonzalez. "If a person has poor health, they would be prone to getting affected quicker by carbon monoxide."

If you think that carbon monoxide is present in your home, leave the home immediately without operating any electrical switches. Expose yourself to fresh air and then call 911 from a cell phone or a neighbor's house.

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