Carbon Monoxide

The Waupaca Area Fire District has responded to many calls for carbon monoxide alarms sounding. Most of these alarms have been due to malfunction, improper installation, or overly sensitive alarms. However, we have also found situations where there has been a build up of carbon monoxide that could have become life threatening if not detected.

Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that kills over 1,700 people from accidental poisoning in North America. Over 10,000 others are treated or hospitalized annually.

Carbon Monoxide is the number one source of accidental poisoning. It is produced through incomplete combustion of fuels such as natural gas, fuel oil, propane, kerosene, coal, and wood. This generally is due to improperly adjusted burners or poorly ventilated flues. Another common cause of carbon monoxide is running a car inside of an attached garage.

Very small amounts of carbon monoxide over a long period of time, or large concentrations over a short period can cause illness and/or death. Symptoms may include; headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, and nausea. In many cases, these symptoms are confused with the flu. Two questions may help you to distinguish the difference: 1) Are other members of the household experiencing symptoms? 2) Do you feel better when you are away from home?

The Waupaca Area Fire District recommends the installation of carbon monoxide detectors. These should be mounted according to the manufacturer’s recommendation which, as a rule of thumb, is in the same areas as your smoke detectors. Carbon monoxide alarms and smoke detectors should be tested monthly to ensure they are in proper working order.

If an alarm sounds, use your family’s exit plans to leave the house and account for all family members. Call 911 and inform the dispatcher of the problem, and if your family is experiencing any of the symptoms discussed above. The Waupaca Area Fire District will respond and use our highly sensitive instruments to help determine the problem, and advise you on a safe way to correct the situation.

Below are some excellent printable sources of information on Carbon Monoxide. All files are .pdf format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader.

CO Detector Requirements for 1 & 2 Family Homes
Wisconsin Fire Chiefs Association Brochure

Commerce Version

Consumer Product Safety Commission CO Tips

Underwriters Laboratories Inc. CO Tips

Home Safety Council CO Detector Installation Tips

National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) CO Tips

Click here to view video on Carbon Monoxide Safety

 

CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) EXPOSURE LIMITS

PPM
TIME
COMMENTS
35-50 8 hours The maximum allowable concentration for continuous exposure in any 8-hour period, according to OSHA
200 2-3 hours

Headache (mild)

800 45 minutes Headache (mild)
3200 10-15 minutes Dizziness
3200 30 minutes Death
6900 1-2 minutes Dizziness
6900 10-15 minutes Death
6000-8000 5 minutes Incapacitation
12,800 2-3 breaths Unconsciousness