The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Unlike the castles of old, the average home today is an air-tight fortress. This means that there is very little opportunity for air to enter or leave your home. Although this saves the homeowner money in heat-related costs, it can also put your family at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

What leads to the production of carbon monoxide?

You may be thinking that this concern does not apply to you because you have a brand new, high-efficiency chimney and exhaust system. However, there are several factors that can lead to a carbon monoxide problem.

For example, when a furnace does not have the required oxygen to burn through the provided energy source, it produces carbon monoxide. When a chimney suffers from creosote or soot accumulation, blockages, or flawed flue liners (all of which can be common in a chimney that is not annually inspected and maintained), toxic gases, polluted air, and smoke cannot be properly vented. Even a new, high-efficiency system can create toxic gases when it is vented into a pre-existing chimney flue. As a result, carbon monoxide and other dangerous fumes can be trapped in your exhaust system with nowhere to go but further into your home.

The effects of carbon monoxide on your family can be devastating and even life-threatening. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are approximately two-hundred carbon monoxide deaths each year as a result of home heating system defects. Other statistics indicate that the death count is as high as four thousand a year nationwide.

In addition to carbon monoxide fatalities, studies show that there are nearly ten thousand carbon monoxide-related health problems reported each year.* In small, steady doses, carbon monoxide can cause permanent brain and organ damage. Many individuals do not even recognize the symptoms of exposure because they appear as common headaches, nausea, dizziness, and lethargy. The longer an individual is exposed to carbon monoxide in any amount, the higher their risk of permanent and possibly fatal damage.

A Close Call: A Story from Owner Bob Ferrari

“I fell out of the attic, seconds from passing out completely, and permanently…

It was a routine chimney inspection. The home owners were heating with a gas wall furnace. Five feet from the crawl space my vision blurred, I couldn’t breathe, but somehow noticed the wall furnace vent was disconnected in the attic. It took seconds – I simply fell out of the ceiling hole eight feet to the floor. It took a month to recover. It was carbon monoxide.

This family had been chronically ill for months. Children missed weeks of school. Parents missed weeks of work. The bills were piling up.

A carbon monoxide monitor would’ve saved them grief. But not just any CO detector…”

The NSI 3000 Carbon Monoxide Monitor:

  • Is resistant to false alarms.
  • Begins a digital read out at 5 PPM.
  • Alarms at 15 PPM.
  • Sounds a loud alarm after 5 minutes of detecting CO between 36 and 70 PPM.
  • Sounds a crisis alarm with no delay that cannot be silenced when CO above 70 PPM is detected.
  • Has a sensor that is designed to last 6 years.
  • Has a 5 year warranty.

Would You Prefer a Monitor That Tells You Before or After You’ve Been Poisoned?

Seems like a stupid questions, but it’s not.  California requires CO detection and warning equipment.  The UL 2034 standards for CO monitors, which California mandates, designate 70 PPM for a 1-2 hour exposure.  This is enough to give a constant headache to a young, healthy, adult male.  Only 9 PPM are allowed indoors over an 8 hour period.

The US Product Safety Commission gives the idea that most people are unaffected from 1 to 70 PPM.  The weird thing is that Cal-OSHA sets 25 PPM as the maximum exposure at your job.  Your family, infants and elderly don’t receive the same protection at home as on a jobsite.

The mandated CO detectors specifically are not to detect “low” levels of CO.  Why?  They don’t want false alarms.

Guess How Much CO You Should Breathe?

Answer: None!  UCLA and other leading medical institutions throughout the world have documented the effects of chronic low level carbon monoxide resulting from tobacco smoke and other sources as low as 5 PPM:

  • SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
  • Underweight babies with smaller head sizes
  • The fetus is severely and irreversibly affected by low levels during the 3rd trimester.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

and oxidative distress in patients with:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Lou Gherig’s Disease
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Asthma
  • Other respiratory problems

What can I do?

Although these numbers are disheartening, carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by ensuring that your chimney system is professionally inspected each year. These annual inspections are strongly recommended by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fire Protection Association, and the American Lung Association.

*Statistics provided by

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