Outdoor Pollution: Carbon Monoxide

CO gas PurpleAir

What is CO?

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 it 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 do we reduce exposure to CO?

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.
  • PurpleAir sensors do not detect CO, but having your PurpleAir sensor close to you can be a helpful in detecting particulate matter in the air. It allows you to take preventative measures on time when air quality is not great.

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