Carbon Monoxide Facts & Myths
MYTH #1 - I can smell carbon monoxide when the furnace is on.
FACT - CO is actually colorless, tasteless, and odorless. Because it cannot be noticed without a detector or meter, CO has earned the dubious name of “silent killer.” When folks call and say they can “smell carbon monoxide,” they are usually referring to other combustion byproducts that the human nose can detect. If you can smell combustion byproducts there is a problem that should be addressed as soon as possible.
MYTH #2 - Carbon monoxide is heavier than air.
FACT - CO is slightly lighter than air with a molar mass of 28.0, and air has an average molar mass of 28.8. The difference is so slight that CO is found to evenly distribute itself indoors. It is worth mentioning that CO indoors is usually generated from incomplete combustion (heat source) and therefore traveling in a warm air stream. Warm air is more buoyant and does rise.
MYTH #3 - Carbon monoxide is not dangerous.
FACT - CO poisoning is the most common type of fatal indoor air poisoning in countries where cooking and heating is still dominated by fires.
MYTH #4 - Carbon monoxide poisoning is like any other kind of poisoning.
FACT - CO bonds to hemoglobin, and instead of carrying oxygen, the hemoglobin is then occupied with CO, creating carboxyhemoglobin CO poisoning is actually the result of the head and heart not receiving sufficient oxygen… or asphyxiation.
MYTH #5 - I'll be able to tell if my house has an excessive level of carbon monoxide.
FACT - You may not be able to tell. Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to flu symptoms; that's why having working CO alarms on each level of your home is very important. It could alert you to a problem that you might otherwise assume is part of the flu season.