Here's a shocking wake-up call. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in your home!
If you have a Kidde, First Alert, Pro-Tech or any other UL-2034 or CA-6.19 listed Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarm in your home (if you have any CO Alarm, this most likely means you do have one of these) look at the product liability disclaimer for the product. It will clearly say that you are not protected from Chronic Low Level CO Poisoning.
So, what's going on here? Your typical CO Alarm will notify you when you reach a lethal level of CO, generally considered 35ppm (parts per million.) But that's the lethal level. CO poisoning occurs at levels lower than that. Even the EPA dictates that exposure to CO levels of 9ppm or more for more than 8-hours results in poisoning.
CO is produced by inefficient/incomplete gas combustion. Appliances, such as furnaces, water heaters, and ovens/burners, produce CO. An example of how CO is being produced in my home: The burners on my stove each produce between 4-11ppm of CO, but my oven is producing 200ppm. Without a fan on or windows open while cooking, all this CO goes into the ambient air of our home and generally stays there. What does it do? Here is the data from the EPA:
At low concentrations, fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea. Can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving home. Fatal at very high concentrations. Acute effects are due to the formation of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood, which inhibits oxygen intake. At moderate concentrations, angina, impaired vision, and reduced brain function may result. At higher concentrations, CO exposure can be fatal.
I'm scared to test our furnace (installed in 1948) to see how much CO it produces! Is it any wonder I need extra cups of coffee when I wake up in the morning?!
There is only one company that I know of that sells CO Alarms that will provide you monitoring to levels that are toxic (not just lethal levels.) They have a terrible website, so don't judge the book by its cover:
They aren't cheap at $249, but it's cheaper than a visit to the doctor!