Outdoor Air Pollution: Carbon Monoxide

CO gas PurpleAir

Do you ever worry about the air quality when you are outside?

With stories of increased air pollution due to wildfires, farming practices, traffic emissions and more circulating through our news cycles, it’s no wonder that many feel concerned.

The truth is that outdoor air pollution can affect us in a number of ways – from irritation to serious health impacts. But there are steps we can take as individuals, families and communities to reduce its effects.

This article will provide an overview of what outdoor air pollution like Carbon Monoxide, how it affects our health (especially children) and how you can reduce exposure.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

CO, or Carbon Monoxide, is a colorless and odorless gas. If inhaled constantly or the concentrations are too high, it can affect our health severely. Vehicles and other machinery that burns fossil fuels represent the most significant sources of CO.

While it is generally in higher concentrations in the outdoor air, it can also affect the indoors more commonly than we think. The average home includes numerous appliances with CO emissions, such as gas space heaters, leaking chimneys, and gas stoves. All of this can contribute to higher PM2.5 concentrations in our homes.

How Does Air Pollution Affect My Health?

The way CO can affect our health depends on the gas concentrations. According to the CDC, 430 people in the U.S. die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year. Furthermore, around 50,000 people require medical attention to treat accidental poisoning.

At a low concentration, carbon monoxide can cause fatigue. In people with heart disease, it can also cause chest pain. Angina, poor vision, and reduced brain function are most common when the concentration is moderate. High concentrations of Carbon monoxide can cause all of the previously mentioned symptoms, plus dizziness, confusion, nausea, or flu-like symptoms.

At extremely high concentrations, it can be fatal. Red blood cells pick up CO quicker than they pick up oxygen, limiting your body's oxygenation capacity.

How To Reduce Exposure to Carbon Monoxide

You can reduce CO exposure by effectively maintaining and adjusting combustion equipment. If indoor CO concentrations are too high, generating extra ventilation is always a good idea. In addition, you can also implement these actions:

  • Idle the car outside the garage
  • Have your appliances professionally inspected, cleaned, and tuned up every year.
  • Open flues when using fireplaces.
  • Consider having a vented space heater.
  • Use air quality monitors.
PurpleAir air quality do not detect CO, but having your PurpleAir device close to you can be helpful in detecting particulate matter in the air. It allows you to take preventative measures on time when air quality is not great.

    Worried About Air Quality?

    Monitor the Particulate Matter levels around the world with our free, real-time PurpleAir Map or join PurpleAir's mission to make air quality data accessible to everyone by investing in an air quality monitor for your home. 

    Together, we can be informed and make changes in our daily habits and the community to improve air quality.