In many ways, carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent killer, as it cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. However, unlike oxygen, which humans need to live, the effects of carbon monoxide (CO) are severe and sometimes deadly. In the United States alone, over 400 people die from CO poisoning each year, with many more hospitalized.
Although carbon monoxide poses a serious threat, there remains a certain amount in the atmosphere at all times. In fact, small traces are harmless to humans, which causes many to wonder how much carbon monoxide is dangerous.
The answer is simple: Once CO blood levels rise above 0.2 ppm, it becomes dangerous. Because of this threat, installing a carbon monoxide alarm is essential to alert those inside buildings of increasing levels. This responsibility always falls on building owners.
Building owners and maintenance workers must understand how to monitor and check for CO levels properly. Because if left unchecked, unintentional CO poisoning can have disastrous health effects on tenants.
What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Before understanding what carbon monoxide poisoning is, you must first understand what causes carbon monoxide in a house or building in the first place. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas created through natural and artificial combustion.
Natural events, like volcanic eruptions and forest fires, create carbon monoxide naturally. However, manufactured fuel-burning appliances, like water heaters, charcoal grills, car engines, generators, gas stoves, or washers, cause the most significant CO emissions.
Carbon monoxide gas forms because combustion appliances fail to complete the oxidation process. So, instead of fully combusting a carbon compound to create CO2, the oxygen molecule doesn't receive enough oxygen (heat), and carbon monoxide forms.
Greater CO levels create significant health risks and severe symptoms for building occupants. CO poisoning poses a hazard because inhaling it replaces the oxygen in the lungs, making it hard to breathe. When this happens, the blood doesn't receive enough oxygen, causing shortness of breath and may eventually cause chronic heart disease or failure.
CO poisoning can also cause damage to the brain and muscle tissue and, if severe enough, sudden death.
Why Should You Monitor Carbon Monoxide Levels?
Monitoring CO levels is crucial to protecting the well-being of a building's tenants and can promote a holistic approach to indoor air quality.
Installing a CO detector is a great place to start as an essential safety measure against CO poisoning. However, building managers should consider smart building technology that provides measurements and updates in real-time. Smart building technology is the modern solution to avoiding symptoms of carbon monoxide before they begin.
Furthermore, setting indoor air quality goals is essential to create an environment that promotes health and productivity.
1. Carbon Monoxide Is Colorless and Odorless.
As stated before, the physical trace of carbon monoxide is undetectable by the human senses. Because of this, it's crucial to implement a strong network of sensors and alarms to detect when CO levels rise above 0.2 ppm.
2. Carbon Monoxide Can Increase Quickly in Poorly Ventilated Places
Another common reason for unhealthy levels of CO in a building is poor ventilation and installation. The leading cause of CO poisoning is gas appliances. Because of this, any combustible device should be placed strategically in areas with proper ventilation and checked to ensure they aren't leaking after installation.
3. Acute Carbon Dioxide Poisoning Level Can Lead to Death
Too much carbon monoxide can cause death by suffocation, heart failure, or severe tissue debilitation. However, the risk of sudden death comes when someone is trapped in a room with excessive carbon monoxide. As a result, they fall asleep, and the failure of oxygen to the heart causes the heart to stop working, resulting in death.
Where Should Carbon Monoxide Detectors Be Installed?
Every building and home should install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor. It's also wise to place the sensors as close to the centers of human activity as possible. For example, at home, place detectors near sleeping areas. In office buildings, place detectors near where most people work. For large office floors, you may need to install multiple CO alarms.
Building managers should also perform routine battery checks to ensure the alarms are working. These checkups require managers to always keep a battery backup handy if they find a dead battery.
Common Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
While carbon monoxide is untraceable via human senses, people might start feeling some side effects before the CO levels reach a deadly height. However, there are some common symptoms to look out for, as they progressively worsen the more carbon monoxide pours into the air.
Early symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, nausea, and dizziness. But without proper detection mechanisms, many progressed symptoms, some of which are listed below.
If you or someone you know experienced the effects of CO poisoning, make sure to go to the doctor immediately and get checked for any lasting effects.
Because carbon monoxide cuts off oxygen to the bloodstream and heart, chest pain is a major sign of CO poisoning, indicating potentially life-threatening levels of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere.
Shortness of Breath
When exposed to carbon monoxide over time, building occupants may collectively experience shortness of breath as their oxygen intake is severely depleted.
Vision issues are another common problem associated with carbon monoxide. When the body's primary organs fail to receive a proper oxygen supply, dizziness or blurriness can occur.
How To Respond When the Carbon Monoxide Detector Goes Off
It's long established that carbon monoxide is a severe threat to those occupying buildings and homes. Because of these risks, building managers should implement proper systems to catch CO levels before they become dangerous.
Likewise, understanding how to get rid of carbon monoxide is something that every building owner and manager must be aware of before the issue occurs. The best way to do this is to set up a system of internet-powered sensors that tracks indoor air quality throughout an entire building.
If incorporating smart technology strikes you as the right next step for protecting your tenants and building assets, contact Attune to schedule a demo and learn more about how our solutions can help defend those under your care.