How Long Does It Take for Carbon Monoxide to Dissipate?

How Long for Carbon Monoxide to Dissipate

You may be aware that the presence of carbon monoxide gas, in your surrounding environment and/ or in your body beyond a particular level may lead to health issues.

You should therefore not do activities like outdoor grilling inside the home as there is a chance for Carbon monoxide leakage without your knowledge.

You should also stay away from the place as far as possible in case of any carbon monoxide spilling due to any activity or accident.

The rate of dissipation for Carbon Monoxide varies depending on the severity of the leakage and you should stay away from that place for a good number of hours or even days if the situation demands.

In the following paragraphs, you may get to know a glimpse of this deadly gas, its nature, its sources, symptoms, along with some preventive actions and dissipation duration. 

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (shortly and chemically known as CO) is a gas that bears a resemblance to Carbon dioxide (CO2).

While carbon dioxide, having two atoms of oxygen will create health hazards in human beings, do you think will carbon monoxide with just one atom of oxygen not be more hazardous to human beings?

It is deemed as deadly gas which is:

  • Colorless – you cannot see,  
  • Odorless – you cannot smell and 
  • Tasteless – you cannot taste the flavor 

Carbon monoxide is slightly lighter when compared to air and in a short time, it spreads all through the whole of the house.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Simply put, any incomplete combustion or disruption in the burning process due to insufficient oxygen will produce deadly carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is the resultant by-product of any partial combustion i.e. when there is no sufficient oxygen surrounding the fuel-burning appliances, carbon monoxide is bound to be produced. 

Naturally occurring events like volcanoes, charcoal/ wood/coal/ forest fires emanate this gas periodically.

Also, probably you may not be aware but you should now be aware that portable generators, gas stoves, chimneys, furnaces, gasoline engines, water heaters, space heaters or heat pumps/ heat exchangers or car’s exhaust are some of the potential sources of carbon monoxide emission. 

How it Affects Your Health Internally?

When you inhale the CO, it binds with the hemoglobin and forms carboxyhemoglobin (COHb), displacing oxygen resulting in the deficiency of oxygen to the cells of your body.

Hemoglobin is the main carrier of oxygen in the blood to different parts of your body.

Your lungs, heart, and brain have the necessity to have large doses of oxygen and any shortages will make you suffer due to a shortage of oxygen.

This is why even a little amount of carbon monoxide will be dangerous. Physical and non-reversible damages can occur.

Carbon monoxide, in higher concentrations in a person’s body, will lead to death in lesser than five minutes.

When in low concentrations, it will slowly affect the body. Prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide may trigger permanent damages to the nerve, brain, or heart.

There are cases when it will take years for recovery and sometimes there may not be full recovery at all.

Having known what carbon monoxide is and how it affects your health, let us jump on to the next topic.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The level of carbon monoxide present in the air, gender, age, and general health are the determinant factors for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Symptoms due to the impact of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to those of flu i.e., fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and irritability.

The presence of such symptoms for a fairly long period will result in vomiting, consciousness loss, breathing difficulties, muscle weakness, brain damage, heart irregularity, abortions, and ultimately even death.

Therefore, a further diagnosis as to the infliction of carbon monoxide poisoning may lead to a better remedy and cure. You may wonder, how to differentiate CO poisoning from normal flu symptoms?

  • Whether the symptoms have set in after the use of fuel-burning devices?
  • All the family members are falling sick at the same particular point of time (for flu it will take some days for another person to be inflicted with it)
  • The persons are subject to the symptom, when they are at a particular place in their house and when they are out of that area, the symptoms do not exist.

A carbon monoxide detector will come in handy in such cases. The simple solution here is that the concerned person moves or is made to be taken out of that particular place.

Steps to be taken in case of carbon monoxide poisoning

  • The concerned person should leave the room and inhale fresh air.
  • He should get medical treatment, which is dependent on the quantum of carbon monoxide, mixed in the bloodstream besides the patient’s assessment.
  • In normal circumstances, oxygen will be administered. In cases of severity, treatment using oxygen/ hyperbaric chambers – pressurized oxygen chamber will be required.
  • It is advisable to have the related appliances inspected for carbon monoxide leaks and not to go back into the building until it turns to be safe.

How Can You Avoid Carbon Monoxide Emission?

Periodical maintenance of the above items will be preventive action to arrest its leakage.

Fixing a carbon monoxide detector in your building is a precautionary measure. These gadgets, so far as they run well and are fault-free, push the deadly gas outdoors via the crack-free exhaust vents.

The gas outside in the air dissipates and it is harmless; since normally some negligible amount of carbon monoxide is always present in the atmosphere.

A carbon monoxide detector is an instrument, which is designed to sound a warning alarm against the concentration of carbon monoxide at high levels, if greater than a particular say 100 ppm.

Even though you have learned now the sources and prevention methods of carbon monoxide poisoning, it would be much complete, if you learn the symptoms of it as well, so that you can act fast to save yourself and your dear ones.

The Conclusion

Depending upon the severity of leakage, it may take a couple of days to dissipate; it is necessary that you may have to be away from the house for such periods.

Carbon monoxide has the characteristic of quickly paralyzing a person since its half-life in the fresh air is about five hours.

Carbon monoxide will slightly be lighter than air; it will start dissipating if appliances, generating carbon monoxide are switched off and the doors and windows are kept open.

When more air flows in, the CO will correspondingly leave the room. 

When the dissipation relates to the human body, CO has a half-life of about five hours in the human body i.e., if you start breathing fresh air, without carbon monoxide, then in about five hours half of the carbon monoxide will get out of the human body; in the next five hours, half of that balance carbon monoxide will go.