Carbon Monoxide

What Causes Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

There are various causes of carbon monoxide exposure including faulty boilers and heating equipment, malfunctioning portable generators and running vehicles. A carbon monoxide leak from any of these items could result in carbon monoxide poisoning ending in serious health complications or death.

Discover the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that often goes undetected. Known as the “silent killer” it is known for catching homeowners off guard or while they sleep. Each year, over 400 Americans suffer death due to accidental exposure to carbon monoxide that results in poisoning.

According to the CDC or Centers for Disease Control, infants, elderly individuals and those with chronic heart disease, anemia or breathing problems are more susceptible to the effects of carbon monoxide. However, the gas does not pick and choose its victims—anyone can be exposed.

Why is Carbon Monoxide Dangerous?

Carbon monoxide is silent and serious illness or death can occur before CO is detected. When breathed, it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain and other organs of critical oxygen. According to OSHA, large amounts of CO can overcome the body in minutes without warning, resulting in loss of consciousness and suffocation.

Recent Carbon Monoxide Statistics

In recent years, the effects of carbon monoxide have been seen throughout the state of Minnesota:

  • 5 unintentional and non-fire related CO poisoning deaths in 2016
  • 148 emergency room visits for CO poisoning in 2015
  • 15 CO poisoning hospitalizations in 2015

The effects of carbon monoxide can also be seen nationally:

  • From 2010 to 2015, a total of 2,244 people died from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Approximately 50,000 people in the United States visit the emergency department each year due to accidental CO poisoning.
  • Carbon monoxide kills more Americans than mass shootings and terrorism combined.

Discover Myths About Carbon Monoxide

Did you know that there are myths surrounding carbon monoxide that many often believe? Did you know that having a crack in a boiler is a cause for concern, even with a window open? To learn more about these myths, visit the CO and Safety Myths page.

The Effects of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide effects increase with the level of CO present. The range of 1-4ppm is the normal level in human tissues produced by the body. Anything greater than 1-4ppm is increased CO and can result in after effects.

  • 5-6ppm: Can result in significant risk of low birth weight if exposed during the last trimester.
  • 27ppm: 21% increase in cardiopulmonary complaints.
  • 70ppm: 1st alarm level of approved CO alarms.
  • 200ppm: First level where healthy adults will have symptoms such as headaches and nausea
  • 400ppm: Healthy adults will experience headaches within 1-2 hours. This level is life-threatening after 3 hours.
  • 800ppm: Symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and convulsions within 45 minutes. Unconscious within 2 hours, then death.
  • 800ppm+: Death in less than one hour.
  • 3,000ppm: Death in less than 30 minutes.

Without an approved carbon monoxide detector, these levels of CO will go undetected in homes. It is critical to understand the importance of CO alarms and to know the symptoms associated with exposure.