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Carbon Monoxide

Often called the "silent killer".   Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas formed by the incomplete combustion of organic substances.  In the United States, it is estimated that 2000 deaths were attributed to CO poisoning.   Some sources of CO are:
  • unvented kerosene and gas space heaters
  • leaking chimneys and furnaces
  • back-drafting from furnaces
  • gas water heaters
  • wood stoves and fireplaces
  • gas stoves
  • generators and other gasoline powered equipment
  • automobile exhaust from attached garages and tobacco smoke
Incomplete burning of fuels in gas ranges and unvented gas or kerosene heaters may cause high concentrations of CO in indoor air.  Worn or poorly adjusted and maintained combustion devices (e.g., boilers, furnaces) can be significant sources, or if the flue is improperly sized, blocked, disconnected, or is leaking.  Auto, truck, or bus exhaust from attached garages, nearby roads, or parking areas can also be a source.
Health effects from breathing in CO is dependent upon the concentration of CO in the air, how long one is exposed to it and the health status of the exposed person.   Exposure to low concentrations may result in a mild headache and a lack of breath during exercising.  Continued exposure may lead to more severeheadaches, dizziness, flu like symptoms like nausea and fatigue.  Prolonged exposure can be deadly. 
Copyright 2009 Morrison County, MN ~ All rights reserved. Photos provided by Kirk Lindberg, OneStoneStudio.com