Carbon Monoxide. The Silent Killer

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odourless, tasteless and extremely toxic gas. It is absorbed by red blood cells in the lungs in preference to Oxygen - this results in rapid damage to the heart and brain from Oxygen starvation.

Any household appliance that burns natural gas, coal, oil, bottled gas, paraffin, wood, petrol, diesel or charcoal will produce some levels of CO. The level produced will vary depending on the type of fuel being burnt and the quality of the service and maintenance of the appliance(s).

Always fit a CO alarm in rooms with fuel burning appliances. Fitting at least 2 interconnected alarms will enhance early detection of CO and raise the alarm sound levels throughout the house. If there is only one appliance in the house consider fitting an additional alarm in the bedroom area.

CO alarms must always be fitted in conjunction with a standard smoke alarm as they are not intended to be used as the sole detection device.

The optimum (minimum +) CO protection for rooms in your home are:

  • Living rooms with high occupancy
  • Bedrooms above or adjacent to room with appliance
  • Rooms with chimney breasts passing through them, e.g. upstairs bedroom
  • Rooms with portable gas / oil heaters
  • Parking garages

Symptoms of mild CO poisoning include headaches, drowsiness, fatigue, nausea, confusion, and flu-like symptoms. Larger exposures can lead to toxicity of the central nervous system and heart, and death. After acute poisoning, long-term problems may occur. Carbon monoxide can also have negative effects on a baby if exposed during pregnancy. Chronic exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can lead to depression, confusion, and memory loss.

Concentration of CO in Air (ppm*) Inhalation Time (approx) and Symptoms Developed
35 The maximum allowable concentration for continuous exposure to any 8 hour period according to Occupational Safety & Health Association.
150 Slight headache after 1.5 hours.
200 Slight headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea after 2-3 hours.
400 Frontal headaches within 1-2 hours, life threatening after 3 hours, also maximum parts per million in flue gas (on an air free basis) according to US Environmental Protection Agency.
800 Dizziness, nausea and convulsions within 45 minutes. Unconsciousness within 2 hours. Death within 2-3 hours.
1,600 Headache, dizziness and nausea within 20 minutes. Death within 1 hour.
3,200 Headache, dizziness and nausea within 5-10 minutes. Death within 25-30 minutes.
6,400 Headache, dizziness and nausea within 1-2 minutes. Death within 10-15 minutes.
12,800 Death within 1-3 minutes.

* ppm = parts per million

It is imperative that appliances are maintained and serviced every two years. Install CO detectors and test regularly to make all family members familiar with their distinctive sound. Make everyone aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning. Have all appliances serviced regularly, ensure that air vents are not blocked.

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Brooks is a family owned and operated Australian company who commenced operations in 1973. We have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the industry and are committed to providing quality, reliable products to safeguard you and your family.