What Are the Sources of Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that is produced when fuels containing carbons are not completely burned. Carbon monoxide is also very toxic even when inhaled in relatively small quantities. Carbon monoxide contributes to environmental degradation and is a main component of smog and other forms of air pollution.


Since carbon monoxide is formed through the incomplete burning of carbon fuels, common household appliances such as space heaters, furnaces, stoves and grills all produce this gas. Automobile exhaust is another a main source of carbon monoxide. Improperly burning garbage will also produce carbon monoxide because of the chemicals that may be found in trash. Burning wood, coal, paraffin, propane or natural gas will all contribute to the making of carbon monoxide.

Health Considerations

Being odorless, colorless and tasteless, carbon monoxide poses a serious threat to people as it is also highly toxic. The amount of carbon monoxide needed to poison a person depends on the age and weight of the person. Carbon monoxide molecules bind to hemoglobin in the blood so that the body does not receive enough oxygen from the blood cells. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, fatigue and nausea. When inhaled in significant amounts, carbon monoxide poisoning is fatal.

Environmental Effects

While carbon monoxide does occur naturally on earth, extraneous amounts are produced through human activities, such as driving automobiles, burning coal and using other combustibles. These contribute greatly to air pollution and smog, which are found in many of the world's major cities. Air pollution and smog, in turn, can trigger or exacerbate respiratory illnesses in the elderly, children and sufferers of asthma.

Checking for Problem Sources in the Home

In order to ensure the family's safety inside the home, a professional needs to check furnaces to guarantee that they are functioning properly; furnaces are a leading source of carbon monoxide indoors. Checking furnaces is especially important because of the high amounts of carbon monoxide they can emit. Since carbon monoxide is an odorless gas, it is impossible to detect without special equipment. Other safe practices include venting space heaters properly, checking fireplaces for debris and chimney blockage, and not using the barbecue grill indoors.

Automobile Emissions

Since automobiles emit high concentrations of carbon monoxide, it is imperative that cars not be left running while in a small, confined and poorly ventilated space such as a closed garage. Moreover, though the room may seem closed, the gas can seep in through the walls and cause others in the house to be sickened if the concentrations rise to high enough levels.