Carbon Monoxide

Jul 26, 2010

Carbon monoxide (CO) is combustion by-product that can often be deadly.  With power outages on the east coast from weekend storms, undoubtedly many people will run out and purchase power generators.   Also undoubtedly, some of these generators will be stolen by jealous neighbors who didn’t make it to the hardware store before they sold out.

How do you prevent your generator from being stolen?  Let me give you some clear advice on what NOT to do.  Although operating a generator in your attached garage may be best to prevent theft, you may not wake up (ever) to enjoy the power it is supplying.

The most recent issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene reports on occupational carbon monoxide poisoning in Washington state.  During the period of 2000-2005, a total of 221 CO poisoning incidents occurred, none leading to death.  The article points out 29% of the incidents were related to forklifts, and 26% to vehicle emission exhaust.

Because carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, you will need equipment to measure the concentration.  I’m not talking about a carbon monoxide detector that is mounted on the ceiling.  Most of those only alarm at very high levels.  For around $200 you can purchase a decent CO monitor.  The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) considers levels at or above 9 parts per million (ppm) to be a “Concentration of Interest” in their Standard 62.1.

As time goes on, I’ll be adding more information on my blog about carbon monoxide and its effect on indoor air quality.  Until then you can read up on a related chemical: dihydrogen monoxide.