Short #73 – Ambient CO

In this short podcast episode, Bryan talks about ambient CO. He also explains why it matters and what you do to check for it.

CO, carbon monoxide, is a colorless, odorless, and toxic gas that can result in death. It should not be confused with CO2, carbon dioxide. Although our bodies inhale oxygen and not carbon dioxide, the latter isn't toxic if it gets into our bloodstream. CO, on the other hand, displaces oxygen, which proves deadly. Carbon monoxide can also build up in your bloodstream over time, so you want to avoid repeated exposure.

In some locations, you can expect some degree of ambient CO. For example, lots of car exhaust in busy cities can lead to a low amount of carbon monoxide in the air (a few parts per million). Most CO monitors detect much higher concentrations of carbon monoxide (around 100 parts per million).

When working in a place where carbon monoxide is a concern, such as in a home with gas appliances, be sure to use your instrumentation to measure CO in an occupied space. Also, check for carbon monoxide spilling out of the unit. Don't confuse ambient CO with the carbon monoxide found in combustion analysis; they are NOT the same. Ambient CO indicates a bigger problem like backdrafting.

Unlike standard CO monitors, you will want to use a personal ambient CO monitor that can measure down to 1 part per million for YOUR safety. Again, do NOT use combustion analyzers for personal protection! You can also offer higher-quality CO monitor/alarm suggestions to your customers.

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