Carbon Monoxide and Indoor Air Quality

Overview of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, colorless toxic gas. Because of the invisible qualities, the toxic fumes of a CO leak can kill you before you are even aware that it is infiltrating your home. The effects of carbon monoxide exposure can vary from person to person, depending on age, overall health, and the length of the exposure to the gas.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a man-made gas, meaning that is it is not naturally created by the earth. It is formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels and can be found in many household items such as: gas stoves, clothes dryers, tobacco smoke, generators, auto exhaust, leaking furnaces or chimneys, grills, gas space heaters, and poorly maintained boilers amongst others.

Health Effects of Carbon Monoxide

The health effects of carbon monoxide depend on the concentration of the gas. For example, at low concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause healthy people to feel fatigued, and cause chest pain for those with heart disease.

As levels increase to moderate concentrations symptoms can include impaired vision, angina, and reduced brain function.

At even higher concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause more serious side-effects such as impaired coordination, headaches, confusion, dizziness, nausea, flu-like symptoms, and can even be fatal.

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when the gas builds up in your bloodstream. When there is too much CO in the air, your body replaces the Oxygen in your red blood cells with CO. Acute effects are due to the formation of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood, which inhibits oxygen intake.

Average levels of CO in homes without gas stoves can vary from .5 ppm or parts per million, to 5ppm. Levels near properly adjusted gas burning stoves are typically 5 to 15ppm, and those near poorly adjusted gas burning stoves can be up to 30ppm or higher.

Steps to Reduce Exposure to CO

The most important step to take when trying to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is to make sure combustion equipment is properly maintained and adjusted. The use of vehicles should be monitored near buildings, auto shops, and vocational programs. It is also a good idea to add extra ventilation, which can be used as a temporary measure when high levels of CO are expected for shorter periods of time.

Other precautions that you can take in your home include:

  • Installing exhaust fans
  • Do not idle the car in the garage
  • Purchase a vented space heater
  • Keep gas appliances properly maintained
  • Choose wood stoves that meet EPA emission standards
  • Use proper fuel

Measurement Methods of CO

There are several ways to measure levels of carbon monoxide. One of the most reliable ways of CO monitoring is with electrochemical sensors. Electrochemical sensors measure a chemical reaction within the sensor that creates an electrical output proportional to the CO level. For more information about, you can read GasLab’s informative blog post about electrochemical carbon monoxide sensors.

In the home, carbon monoxide monitors come in a wall mount, ceiling mount, or a handheld. One CO detector must be installed on each floor of your home, including the basement. A detector can also be installed in the garage is it is attached to the home. Install a CO detector inside or directly outside of each bedroom or sleeping area. 

The effects of CO are impossible to detect when sleeping; if CO is detected, the alarm will sound and wake you.

GasLab is based out of Florida where Hurricane Season lasts from June 1st to November 30th. During this time of year, weather formations are more likely to turn into tropical storms or hurricanes, and therefore residents always try to be prepared for various circumstances including loss of running water, power outages, fallen trees, flooding, and more. One way in which many people prepare for upcoming storms is by purchasing gas generators to keep power up and running should a storm take it out.

While it is convenient to have a generator on hand, it can come with many hazards. One of the main problems with generators is that they emit carbon monoxide. When it is storming outside, it is unsafe to open a garage door to run a generator outside, however it is equally unsafe to run a generator in a confined space with no ventilation. In some circumstances, generators are necessary, in which you would a carbon monoxide detector. GasLab’s SAN-30 is a personal, wearable carbon monoxide detector that measures CO levels in real time, which makes for a great option around generators.

Alternatively, the CM-503 is also an option for monitoring CO in enclosed spaces. The CM-503 GasLab Plus Carbon Monoxide Gas Detector is a handheld device which can also be set on its stand, to be propped up in your sightline when working in a garage or other space where a generator is present. Something for all Floridians to keep in mind!

It is just as important to monitor CO in the workplace as it is in the home. For businesses that work with toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, it is important toPersonal CO Handheld Sensor have proper ventilation and a CO monitor so that you can be alerted when levels reach dangerous concentrations. For workplace safety monitoring, we suggest the GasLab Plus Multi-Gas Detector which is designed to measure carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and oxygen gas in a variety of applications. This device features an audible alarm, data logging with SD card, rechargeable Li-ion batteries, and a large LCD display for easy readability.

Exposure Limits

The current permissible exposure limit set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, for carbon monoxide is 50 parts per million (ppm) parts of air, or 55 milligrams per cubic meter as an 8-hour time weighted average.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has also established exposure limits for carbon monoxide. NIOSH’s recommended exposure limit is 35 ppm as an 8-hour time weighed average, and 200 ppm as a ceiling. The carbon monoxide exposure limit as set by NIOSH is based on the risk of cardiovascular effects.

Senseair Sunrise CO2 Sensor

Read our blog post for more information regarding exposure limits as set by health organizations!

IAQ and Gas Types

Carbon monoxide plays a large role in indoor air quality applications, however did you know Carbon Dioxide plays a vital role as well? 

For example, too much CO2 in the air at the office can make you feel sleepy and be less productive. GasLab offers solutions for carbon dioxide sensing as well. The SenseAir Sunrise CO2 Sensor uses an LED light source that saves power and makes it resistant to vibration while maintaining high precision. It has a life expectancy of more than 15 years.

Senseair Sunrise CO2 Sensor


In addition, GasLab also offers the S8 Miniature 10,000ppm (1%) Sensor module, which is designed to be used as a safety switch for indoor control and alarm applications like portable heaters or fresh air ventilation in cars. It is a leader in the next generation of small size, low power, NDIR ambient air CO2 sensors!

Need More Assistance?

GasLab is here to assist you in selecting the proper device or detector for your home or workplace. No matter what your needs may be, visit us as or give us a call to speak to an expert: (386) 872-7668


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