Carbon monoxide (CO) has no odor, color, or taste, making it a silent killer. Dangerous concentrations of CO can build indoors unbeknownst to personnel until they become ill. More alarming, personnel usually dismiss early symptoms of CO poisoning because they are like the flu. Couple flu-like symptoms with the COVID-19 pandemic and consequences could be detrimental.
It is estimated that Certified Equipment Breakdown field engineers visit more than 60,000 locations annually, many with no CO detector in the boiler room. Although many jurisdictions do not mandate the installation of one, this is good engineering practice that may save your life.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 430 people die from unintentional CO exposure in the Unites States every year and approximately 50,000 visit the emergency room each year (CDC.gov January 18, 2022).
Keeping vents/flues tight and free from debris is a good start at preventing fumes from escaping into the room or building, but it is also important to consider:
CO does not discriminate: private as well as commercial buildings can be exposed. In schools, universities, hotels, restaurants, manufacturing, and other businesses, the exposure is very likely to exist. Our field engineers are constantly monitoring such conditions, in addition to all other jurisdictional inspection activities, and make recommendations when abnormal conditions are found.
The source of elevated CO levels does not have to come from an actual boiler. Any combustion piece of equipment, including portable, can potentially be the source if it’s not maintained and used properly.
Ensure your equipment is properly maintained and seek professional help when repairs are needed. Know the symptoms of CO poisoning, which may be confused with flu-like symptoms such as:
If you suspect anyone has CO poisoning symptoms, move the personnel into fresh air if it can be done without jeopardizing the safety of others. Call 911 immediately to seek medical attention. Turn off the boiler or source of CO if it can be done safely and by a qualified operator.