Last week three local teenagers were poisoned by carbon monoxide in their shared apartment. This followed the deaths of several adults in a marina when the engine exhaust was sucked into the closed air conditioned cabin as they slept. I'm sure such events happen in all parts of the county. What's unusual about these events is a letter to the newspaper editor about the tragedy.
The letter writer Albert Donnay of Lutherville, MD is a environment health engineer and a certified carbon monoxide analyst. Mr. Donnay rails against the loose standards on carbon monoxide detectors. Apparently the standards for home detectors sound an alarm only when they have detected a CO level of more than 70 ppm for one to four hours. See UL standard UL2034, http://www.alliedsalescompany.com/ul/2034.pdf
Mr. Donnay claims this standard is much to high and by the time the alarm sounds people will be "at least mildly, if not severely poisoned"
. He sites the fire department standard of 35 ppm CO, any duration, for building evacuation. Critics claim the alarm thresholds are set high to avoid false alarms.
Many of us have or should have Carbon Monoxide detectors. Based on my research on the topic it seems to me we have a false sense of security when we depend on Carbon Monoxide detectors for warning us.
I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE each of you to look at Mr. Donnay's web site, http://www.mcsrr.org/poe/cohome.html
There is a lot of technical information there, in fact it's overwhelming. THE BOTTOM LINE is we and especially young children are at HIGH RISK when exposed to Carbon Monoxide levels that occur prior to the detectors alarm threshold. The poisons effects are many and long lived.
For a less technical discussion visit the "Consumer Product Safety Commission Carbon Monoxide Questions and Answers" Web site to learn about carbon monoxide. http://www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/466.html
There are several technologies used in carbon monoxide detectors. All but one have short life. The recommended carbon monoxide detector uses Instant Detection and Response (IDR) electrochemical sensing technology. These have a microprocessor for integrating measurements over time and diagnostics for self testing. All this results in more accurate measurements. Unfortunately the thresholds for sounding the alarm are set as recommended by UL2034, to low in Mr. Donnays belief. Since most have a digital display that shows the current CO level one can look at the display for a current reading. If you see 35 ppm you should be concerned. Immediately ventilate the area and get outside to fresh air.