High levels of carbon monoxide ingestion can cause loss of consciousness and death.  Unless suspected, carbon monoxide poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms. All people and animals are at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Certain groups -- unborn babies, infants, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems -- are more susceptible to its effects.

 

   
   
   
 
 
Carbon Monoxide (CO) Fact Sheet
NY City Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene

How does carbon monoxide affect my body?
Carbon monoxide prevents oxygen in the blood from being carried throughout the body, causing asphyxiation. CO remains in the body for a long time - the half-life of CO in the body is about five hours.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
The effects depend on how much carbon monoxide is in the air, how long it is breathed, and how healthy, active, and sensitive to CO an individual is. Exposure to CO is worse for older people, fetuses, and people with heart, circulatory, or lung disease.

Low concentrations of CO can cause headache, loss of alertness, flu-like symptoms, nausea, fatigue, fast breathing, confusion, disorientation, and overall weakness. In addition, it can cause chest pain in people with heart disease. CO can also impair judgment and cause decreased learning ability in school children.

High concentrations of CO can cause coma (unconsciousness) and death.

The longer a person breathes CO, the worse the effects. For example, breathing air which has 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO in it will cause a headache after one or two hours, but can kill some people after three hours.

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Unintentional Deaths from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Recent advances in technology have improved the effectiveness of CO detection devices in preventing unintentional CO poisoning. Older CO detection devices measured only CO concentration; however, newer CO detection devices are able to measure cumulative CO exposure, which is a more useful measure of health risk. Underwriters Laboratories has recently implemented a standard (ANSI/UL 2034-02) for certifying CO detectors for home use

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What You Should Know About Combustion Appliances

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.  High levels of carbon monoxide ingestion can cause loss of consciousness and death.  Unless suspected, carbon monoxide poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses.  People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.

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Inspect Home Furnace System For Hazards, Carbon Monoxide
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Consumers should be alert to carbon monoxide (CO) gas in the home, CPSC added. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas. People exposed to harmful levels of the gas often show symptoms similar to flu-like illnesses, including dizziness, fatigue, headaches, irregular breathing and nausea.

CPSC estimates that there were 57 carbon monoxide deaths in 1986 from gas-fired furnaces, and 14 involving oil-fueled furnaces. The agency said inspection of home heating systems is important to reduce the risk of death.

(A more recent review claims CO as the leading cause of more than 15,000 accidental poisoning deaths in the United States each year and another 10,000 injuries according to the Carbon Monoxide Medical Association)

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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
National Center for Environmental Health

All people and animals are at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.  Certain groups -- unborn babies, infants, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems -- are more susceptible to its effects.  Each year, more than 500 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and more than 2,000 commit suicide by intentionally poisoning themselves.

(A more recent review claims CO as the leading cause of more than 15,000 accidental poisoning deaths in the United States each year and another 10,000 injuries according to the Carbon Monoxide Medical Association)

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