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Carbon Monoxide Part 2

November 6, 2011

There are two ways to protect against carbon monoxide:  prevention and detection.  Last week we outlined preventative measures.  This week we’re going to talk about detection and response.


Detection is how occupants are alerted that CO levels are climbing.  CO has no odor, so you can’t detect rising CO levels yourself.  Carboxyhemoglobin comes either from a large dose of CO over a short time frame, or a small dose over a long time frame.  Carbon monoxide detectors with the UL listing alert when they detect 150 parts per million (ppm) for 10 minutes or 70 ppm for one hour.  That way occupants are alerted to evacuate before carboxyhemoglobin levels get too high.

Having CO detectors does not mean you don’t have to practice prevention.  We need both elements to protect our families.  Ensure that all fuel-burning appliances are working properly and are properly ventilated.  Get UL- approved CO detectors installed if you don’t have them already.


When your CO detector goes off, EPA (Sept, 2010) recommends the following:

  • First of all ensure it’s the CO detector and not the smoke detector.
  • Once we know it’s the CO detector, check to see if anyone in the house is exhibiting symptoms of CO poisoning.
  • If anyone is, get out of the house and call 911 to get those exhibiting symptoms to medical care
  • If no one exhibits any symptoms, ventilate the house and turn off any appliances that could produce CO.
  • Get a qualified technician to inspect your fuel-burning appliances to find what is producing the CO in your home.

 Don’t wait until tomorrow to get CO concerns checked out.  If you go to sleep in a house full of CO, you may not wake up in the morning.

 If you’ve got questions about carbon monoxide, CO poisoning prevention, or CO detectors you can call me at 509-466-4602, or e-mail me at, or you can post a question here on this blog.


Cobb N, & Etzel R. A. Unintentional carbon monoxide-related deaths in the United States, 1979 through 1988.  Journal of the American Medical Association.  August 7, 1991; 266(5), 659-63. [Medline].

Consumer Search.  (April, 2010).  Carbon monoxide detectors:  What to look for.  Retrieved September 20, 2011, from

Medscape. (May 19, 2011).  Carbon monoxide toxicity in emergency medicine.  Retrieved September 20, 2011, from

Unintentional non-fire-related carbon monoxide exposures–United States, 2001-2003.  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  January 21, 2005; 54(2), 36-9. [Medline]. [Full Text].

United States Environmental Protection Agency.  (Sept, 2010).  Protect your family and yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Retrieved October 26, 2011 from pubs/coftsht.html.



From → Preparedness

One Comment
  1. Thank you for this article. I am sure you might of heard by there was a big storm in New England and Connecticut was hit the hardest. The paper reported that 14 people were rushed to the hospital because of carbon monoxide poisoning. They had their generators running and did not realize the extent of the problem. I am wondering if they had CO detectors? When rescue came they found one victim in a seizure and children that were completely passed out. Reading about it was a wake up call for me and for others.

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