Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream. When too much carbon monoxide is in the air, your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This can lead to serious tissue damage, or even death.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced by burning gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel. Improperly ventilated appliances and engines, particularly in a tightly sealed or enclosed space, may allow carbon monoxide to accumulate to dangerous levels.
Gas kitchen ranges releasing unvented combustion products into the kitchen are common in many homes. Studies show carbon monoxide concentrations in the kitchen are elevated when the stove is used without using the range hood.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
What pollutants are released from a kitchen range? The main pollutants are carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and water vapor.
How serious is carbon monoxide from kitchen ranges? Carbon monoxide is a deadly toxin. In one study, 51 percent of kitchen ranges tested raised CO2 concentrations in the room above the EPA standard of 9 parts per million. Five percent had carbon monoxide levels above 200 parts per million.
How serious are the other pollutants? Nitrogen dioxide is a respiratory irritant produced when the nitrogen in the air combines with oxygen in the burner. The high number of gas ranges, the tightening of homes, the use of gas ranges to heat the home, and the increased incidence of asthma in the U.S. suggests a link between unvented gas heaters and health problems.
What about carbon dioxide and water vapor? Carbon dioxide is a non-toxic gas produced during complete combustion. At higher concentrations CO2 can cause drowsiness, headache, and lead to a “stuffy” feeling in a home. Excess water vapor can lead to problems with mold, wood rot, and peeling paint.
How much carbon monoxide is produced by a kitchen range? Carbon monoxide from kitchen ranges is a common reason for elevated concentrations of CO in homes. Kitchen ranges are required to produce no more than 800 parts per million (ppm) carbon monoxide in an air-free sample of the flue gases. Continued operation of a kitchen range producing 800 ppm in a tight house without extra ventilation will cause carbon monoxide levels to rise quickly to unacceptable levels. Field technicians report most kitchen ranges can be tuned to produce less than 50 ppm.
How can the adverse health effects from using a gas range be reduced?
- Have the furnace tuned for combustion safety by a qualified specialist.
- Follow operating instructions carefully:
- Do not block air vent holes.
- Do not cover the vent holes on the bottom of the oven with foil.
- Keep the unit clean.
- Do not operate with the oven door open.
- NEVER USE A KITCHEN RANGE TO HEAT THE HOME!
- Always use the kitchen range hood fan, vented to the outside, when operating the kitchen range.
- Have the range serviced when:
- Burner flames are not blue.
- The burners do not light properly.
- The burners or pilot produce soot.
- Carbon monoxide concentrations in the house increase during operation of the range.
- Evacuate the house, and call for assistance from outside the house if there is a smell of natural gas or LPG.
- Install a fire extinguisher, smoke detector, and carbon monoxide detector in the home.
How important is installation and use of an exhaust hood vented to the outdoors? Very. Even when the kitchen range is properly tuned, there will be some carbon monoxide produced along with carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and water vapor. Kitchen range manufacturers recommend installation of a range hood to exhaust the combustion products along with cooking odors, grease, and moisture produced during cooking. Failure to use the range hood exhaust fans results in indoor air pollution.
What should be considered when purchasing an exhaust hood? It must seal tightly and vent to the outdoors, operate quietly, and have sufficient capacity to remove cooking fumes. A caution: exhaust fans depressurize the house and may cause downdrafting of vented furnaces, water heaters, boilers, fireplaces, and vented room heaters. Adequate make-up air into the house must be provided for the kitchen exhaust hood. Have a qualified heating contractor install the exhaust hood and run a “worst case” downdrafting test to ensure that all the systems work correctly.
Why can’t the oven door be opened to heat the kitchen?
- The broiler and oven burners are designed to burn with the door closed.
- Opening the oven door disrupts the air flow pattern, and high concentrations of carbon monoxide may be produced.
- The oven burner is not designed to operate continuously, and can overheat.
- Kitchen ranges are designed for intermittent operation. Range standards allow concentrations of carbon monoxide that, under continuous operation, could create serious health problems. The longer the range operates, the more carbon monoxide produced.
- When the oven door is open, heat from the oven flows out the front, and can melt the control knobs or damage the controls.
I have an older kitchen range that sets off my carbon monoxide detector. Will buying a new range correct the problem? Since 1926 kitchen ranges have been allowed to emit up to 800 ppm of CO. A new range may emit as much or more than the old range. Have the old range inspected and tuned by a qualified contractor, one with instruments which measure for carbon monoxide in the flue gases. If you replace the range, have the new range adjusted for low carbon monoxide emissions after installation in your home!
How are ranges modified to burn natural gas or LP? By changing the gas regulator and orifices. Natural gas and LP have drastically different burning characteristics. If the changes are not correct, extremely high levels of carbon monoxide will be produced along with an increased risk of fire or explosion. Conversion should be made ONLY by a qualified contractor, with proper equipment, training, and parts. For a safe conversion, the contractor must measure for carbon monoxide and tune the range for minimum carbon monoxide production after conversion.
What about electric ranges? The electric elements in electric ranges do not produce combustion pollutants. Burning food produces smoke and carbon monoxide, and can cause smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to alarm. So can self cleaning ovens during the clean cycle. Carbon monoxide is toxic, so if CO reaches concentrations high enough to set off an alarm, the alarm should be taken seriously. Open windows and leave the house until concentrations drop. If anyone experiences health problems, medical attention should be sought.
Eyewitness News Consumer Reporter Susan Hogan poured through consumer complaints nationwide and found dozens of cases where high levels of carbon monoxide were emitted from some gas ovens – enough to set off alarms.
Carbon Monoxide Safety
Ontario is taking another step to keep families and homes in Ontario safe by making carbon monoxide alarms mandatory in all residential homes.
The new regulation, which comes into effect October 15, 2014, updates Ontario’s Fire Code following the passage of Bill 77 last year. These updates are based on recommendations from a Technical Advisory Committee which was led by the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management and included experts from fire services, the hotel and rental housing industries, condo owners and alarm manufacturers.
Carbon monoxide alarm will now be required near all sleeping areas in residential homes and in the service rooms, and adjacent sleeping areas in multi-residential units. Carbon monoxide alarms can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into the wall.
Broadly speaking, these amendments will have the following effect:
- Testing and maintenance requirements that apply to smoke alarm now apply to CO2 alarms
- Under the Fire Code amendments, CO2 alarms will be required in existing residential occupancies, where:
- Single dwelling homes (e.g., privately owned homes) have an attached storage garage and/or a fuel burning appliance.
- CO2 alarms will be required only near sleeping areas of these occupancies and not throughout the entire home.
- Multi-unit buildings (e.g., apartment buildings or condominium buildings, hotels, etc.) have an attached storage garage and/or a fuel burning appliance/service room. Within these buildings, CO2 alarms will only be required:
- More than 50 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning in Canada, including 11 on average in Ontario.
- Bill 77, an Act to Proclaim Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week and to amend the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997, received royal assent in December 2013.
- The first Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week will take place November 1-8, 2014.
- The Ontario Building Code requires the installation of carbon monoxide alarms in homes and other residential buildings built after 2001.
Why Should I Care About Carbon Monoxide?
Many Canadians die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning in their own homes, most of them while sleeping.
Where does Carbon Monoxide Come From?
- Natural Gas
- Heating Oil
What Are the Main Sources of Carbon Monoxide in my Home?
How Can I Tell if There is a Carbon Monoxide Leak in my Home?
- Headache, nausea, burning eyes, fainting, confusion, drowsiness.
- Often mistaken for common ailments like the flu
- Symptoms improve when away from the home for a period of time
- Symptoms experienced by more than one member of the household.
- Continued exposure to higher levels may result in unconscious, brain damage and death.
- The elderly, children and people with heart or respiratory conditions may be particularly sensitive to carbon monoxide.
- Air feels stale/stuffy
- Excessive moisture on windows or walls
- Sharp penetrating odour or smell of gas when furnace or other fuel burning appliance turns on.
- Burning and pilot light flames are yellow/orange, not blue
- Pilot light on the furnace or water heater goes out
- Chalky white powder or soot build up occurs around exhaust vent or chimney.
How Can I protect Myself and my Family?
- Regularly maintained appliances that are properly ventilated should not produce hazardous levels of carbon monoxide
- Have a qualified service professional inspect your fuel burning appliance(s) at least once per year.
- Have you chimney inspected and cleaned every year by a W.E.T.T. certified professional.
- Be sure your carbon monoxide alarm has been certified to the Canadian Standard Association (CSA) CAN/CGA 6.19 standard or the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 2034 standard.
- Install a carbon monoxide alarm in or near the sleeping area(s) of the home.
- Install the carbon monoxide alarms(s) in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
To Keep Safe Please Remember:
A carbon monoxide alarm is a good second line of defense. It is not a substitute for the proper care and maintenance of your fuel burning appliance(s). Take the time to learn about the use of carbon monoxide alarms in your home to ensure you are using the equipment properly and effectively.
Where To Install A Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Where NOT to Install a CO Alarm
CO alarms should not be installed in the following locations:
- Where the temperature may drop below 4.4o C (40oF) or exceed 37.8oC (100oF).
- Near paint thinner fumes or household cleaning products. Ensure proper ventilation when using these types of chemicals.
- Within 1.5m (5 feet) of any cooking or open flame appliances such as furnaces, stoves and fireplaces.
- In exhaust streams from gas engines, vents, flues or chimneys.
Do not place in close proximity to an automobile exhaust pipe; this will damage the alarm.
If you have any questions regarding CO safety, please contact your local fire department.
APPLIANCE REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE – CARBON MONOXIDE HOME SAFETY
Unfortunately, carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for thousands of hospital emergency room visits and hundreds of deaths each year. This poisoning is the result of carbon monoxide from fuel-burning appliances in your home reaching dangerous levels. Hot water heaters, furnaces and gas-fueled ranges are all potential sources of hazardous carbon monoxide buildup. Regular appliance repair and maintenance can go a long way in preventing carbon monoxide poisoning.
STAY SAFE WITH APPLIANCE REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE
It’s important to make sure all your fuel-burning appliances are regularly serviced and maintained to prevent CO2 poisoning. During the cold winter weather, your furnace could become a source of CO2 if it is not operating properly. CO2 is a byproduct of the combustion process that occurs in gas-powered furnaces. The CO2 from your furnace is mostly contained within the walls of its heat exchanger. When it is operating correctly, the CO2 is directed through your flue pipe of your furnace and safely vented out of your home. If a crack should develop in the heat exchanger or the flue pipe, CO2 could be leaking into your home and creating a potentially hazardous or even deadly situation.
Annual maintenance is one of the best defenses against appliance-generated CO2 poisoning. Appliance Genie offers comprehensive furnace repair as well as household appliance repair and maintenance in Kitchener and Waterloo. Our experts can quickly diagnose your appliance issues and will let you know if appliance repair or replacement is the best option. Contact us today to schedule a service appointment.
Get our Kitchen range carbon monoxide check up to prevent CO2 poisoning.