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Question about carbon monoxide poisoning

Posted on 2014-12-27
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Last Modified: 2014-12-28
Obviously, I will contact my propane dealer and some experts. Just thought what anyone may know here.

All started with my CO detector going off in my bedroom. I opened some doors, and it stopped, and I went back to bed. The following day, I put detectors in the basement at least 20 feet and 30 feet away from the furnace. This is a one-year-old, on demand, propane furnace. These went off non-stop. From my understanding of these Kidde detectors, the ppm of CO must be at least 30 if not 70. It does take up to an hour for them to go off even at those levels.

I have five very good infrared heaters, which I turned on and kept the house warm meaning the furnace did not run at all except for showers.

I purchased an extremely good $500 UEi portable analyzer. I ran the heat again, and when I came home from work (I used the analyzer to make sure the house was safe) and had detectors with digital readout and carbon monoxide maximum readings recorded in from between me and the basement door. In other words, I wasn't walking blindly into a house with a crazy 3,000 ppm level (which is deadly).

I opened the door to the basement using my analyzer, which instantly jumped to 42. I walked down slowly to the monitor below which showed a COM of 101.  Certainly, not deadly if around it for short amounts of time, but a level I would think you would want to know about. I went to the furnance, and the analyzer picked up around 90, and I couldn't find a source (something I know I am not an expert in and shouldn't be doing). I went all the way to the PVC exhaust.

I guess an issue is not only did this CO make it up to my bedroom two floors above, my cleaning people do my laundry in the basement. My guess is they put in a load of laundry, then return to the upper floors, but I have no idea. Maybe they stay there washing, drying and folding for an hour. That can't be good.

At the moment, it is off, and I am using ELECTRIC infrared heaters (which are incredible and do not give off CO).

My question is should a furnace cause the basement it is in to have levels of 100 ppm. Who would be the best person to call? My propane dealer who works on my furnace. A specialist from the state who works with CO and other dangerous gases?

Thanks.

I know. Please feel free to rip on me for taking these steps without experts. I just felt that with levels of 80 to 100 and using a meter prior to going into the basement was safe. I don't want to call the fire department or have someone come out if not necessary. Symptoms are headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness (flu-like symptoms) WITHOUT fever. I had none of these.
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Question by:Bert2005
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40519934
Carbon Monoxide is odourless and tasteless.  If your alarms are going off, your equipment has a problem. Multiple alarms almost for certain means this is the case.

If you do not have a furnace service contract, call the emergency number of your fuel supplier. They will help.

Keep several windows open and if you can, turn the furnace OFF.
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by:Bert2005
ID: 40519936
Thanks. I did turn it off. It is 20 degrees, so opening windows is only an option at that moment. I guess I am just curious, e.g. was I placing my cleaning people in danger? How long should one be exposed to certain levels before they are poisoned.

I am a doctor so I can write for a level of carboxyhemoglobin at any time, but, unfortunately, the labs are all closed for the holidays.

Thanks John.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40519938
You probably already know that exposure should be very short. The time would depend on concentration so we cannot say how long. It makes you drowsy. so eliminating the source is the main practical thing to do.
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by:Bert2005
ID: 40519941
Very true. I have read on it extensively. When you get past the 2000 ppm range, there is a point where three breaths causing unconsciousness and three minutes can lead to death.

My major question is what are the levels one would expect around a furnace that builds up in a basement. According to the Kidde detectors and NEST, one can expect up to 30 ppm, and it can be normal.
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by:☠ MASQ ☠
ID: 40519942
Maybe you should also get yourself an SpO2 probe!

You'll already know that CO poisoning is insidious, but back to the question, it sounds like either this has been going on for a while or your ventilation has got blocked.

Propane dealership should help but if you get an official in be prepared for them to condemn it until fixed.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40519943
I have CO detectors on every floor (one being the basement) and they never go off (but test properly). So ANY detection is a problem in my view.
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by:Bert2005
ID: 40519944
Do you mean a sat monitor? Good answer.
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by:Bert2005
ID: 40519946
@ John,

I know. I wish I could be more confident in them. This is why I bought the analyzer. I would love to have it go off, then check for levels. It's easy for a smoke alarm to go off, then check for smoke, heat, fire, etc. It is a bit more to have a CO monitor go off (which even the documentation states it can every once in a while, which I why I have two in my bedroom. (Only one home). I know it sounds stupid, but at 3 am, in a sound sleep, it is difficult to get up, go outside, call the fire department.

I know I sound stupid. Just giving all info.
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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 250 total points
ID: 40519947
I have had two gas furnaces in my home over a 35 year period (first, then second). I have never had an incidence of CO, never had an alarm, and they always test properly.

I get smoke alarms from some cooking but never the furnace.

I think you can rely on a good quality alarm. I use Kidde and they are good.

There is no harm in an analyzer but I am happy with my setup.

If my CO alarm went off, I would evacuate with my phone and call the gas company.
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☠ MASQ ☠ earned 250 total points
ID: 40519953
Yes I meant a sats probe but I've just talked with an anaesthesiologist & it turns out that SpO2 won't help because it won't pick up the CO poisoned Hb over the normal so go for the bloods and check the haematocrit to see if you've been compensating.

I think we're all agreed on professional advice to find out why the furnace is no longer burning cleanly.
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by:Bert2005
ID: 40519954
Definitely good answers. I will check with my furnace company. I do like knowing the exact amount, though. The analyzer is very cool.

Really wish I could get a carboxyhemoglobin count.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40519956
I do like knowing the exact amount, though.  <-- The sustained ongoing allowable amount of CO in closed space is essentially zero.
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by:Bert2005
ID: 40519958
Cool that you checked. Yes, he/she is correct. There are two types of measurements of oxygen in the blood. Dissolved oxygen, checked with a blood gas; and an O2 sat monitor used way more often. We are a peds office and check them all the time. Anything above 90 is safe, but we like 94 and up. Without respiratory pathology, it should be 99% or so.

CO has something like 200 times more affinity for one of the four receptors on the heme molecule. Therefore, the blood cell is not very helpful if fully saturated. Plus, when an O2 molecule binds to the first site, the second site has less affinity for O2, which makes sense when you think about it. So, even one CO molecule which will always out compete the O2 for the receptor will make the HB less useful.

The CO has a half life of 300 minutes.

I really appreciate that you went to the trouble of talking to your anesthesiologist friend. Very cool. And, I certainly don't want to come across like I already know this stuff. I know quite a bit, just don't know what a furnace should be emitting. 80 to 100 ppm sounds a bit high. It likely should be around 10 or less is my guess.
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by:John Hurst
ID: 40519977
@Bert2005  - Thank you and I was happy to help.
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by:viki2000
ID: 40520327
Just an additional thought, even if the question is closed, regrading the levels of CO and their effect over our health, especially that you have that nice analyzer which is able to measure precisely the level of CO.
100ppm that you measured  is not good, but is not very dangerous for short term. It is similar with exhaust from automobiles in the Mexico City central area.
There are some tables with ppm values vs. health influence. If you are interested have a look below:
http://www.stopcarbonmonoxide.com/files/CO%20Levels_Risk%20Chart.pdf
http://www.detectcarbonmonoxide.com/co-health-risks/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_monoxide_poisoning
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by:Bert2005
ID: 40521164
Hi viki2000,

Thanks for posting. Those were all helpful and interesting articles. I realize that long exposures to even low levels of CO can be a health risk. I was also wanting to know how high mine was going to get. But, it never got over 110 ppm.

I have someone coming out to look at the furnace on Tuesday. I will try to remember to post back what he finds.
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