How long does it take for carbon monoxide to dissipate? As many people know, or at least should know, carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that can take lives when it is left alone and not highly controlled. This is one of the many reasons why you do not do things such as use an outdoor grill inside. Because of the chemical nature of carbon monoxide, you and anyone else who is exposed to the source for prolonged periods of time might be at risk for being poisoned.
If you want to prepare yourself and make sure that there is a minimal chance of a gas leak in your house, you will first want to make sure that you understand exactly what carbon monoxide is. Once you understand it, you will also be able to know just how long you need to wait for your home to be free of carbon monoxide after a leak. It is never a good idea to enter a home too soon after a carbon monoxide leak as there’s a very good chance that you could end up re-aggravating the symptoms. This makes it all the more important for you to consider learning more about carbon monoxide first.
What Exactly Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a type of gas that seems similar to carbon dioxide, or CO2. In fact, even on a molecular level, they are pretty similar except for one glaring difference. Carbon monoxide only has one oxygen atom whereas carbon dioxide has two. This is also what makes carbon monoxide so deadly. To put it in simple terms, carbon monoxide poisoning is akin to suffocating as it starves your body of oxygen.
To put it more specifically, carbon monoxide molecules will attach to the hemoglobin in your blood. Hemoglobin is a critical molecule in your blood and one of its main purposes is to transport oxygen around the body. When carbon monoxide binds with the hemoglobin in your blood, it renders it useless. This means that even if your lungs are functioning normally, your body is still suffocating because you are not getting the oxygen that you need. Now that you know what carbon monoxide is and how it affects the body, you should now make sure that you know what the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are. Knowing what the symptoms are and being able to identify them sooner will help you evacuate your house in a timelier manner.
What Are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Part of what makes carbon monoxide poisoning so dangerous is that it can present itself similarly to the flu. After all, some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, fatigue, drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, and headaches. All of these are common for flus, which can often make people wait to seek treatment. For carbon monoxide poisoning, choosing to wait is going to be one of the last choices that you ever make. There is a very good reason why carbon monoxide has earned its position as the silent killer, especially considering that the gas itself is tasteless, odorless, and colorless.
There are a few things that you should pay attention to so that you can determine whether or not the symptoms are actually the flu or carbon monoxide poisoning. Of course, there is the obvious, such as the carbon monoxide detector, which everyone should have in his or her house, going off. Aside from this, you will want to consider three things:
- Consider the time and location of the people who got sick (i.e. symptoms occur after using a fuel-burning device).
- More than one person becomes sick at the same time (the flu takes at least a few days to show in another person who catches it).
- People only have the symptoms occur in a specific area of the house and when they leave that area, the symptoms disappear.
If there are any of these factors in the equation, then you might want to consider the possibility that the person who is sick actually has carbon monoxide poisoning and you need to take the measures necessary to remove yourself and that person from the environment where it happened.
Where Does Carbon Monoxide Come From?
Depending on where the carbon monoxide leak is, it might make a difference in how long it takes to get the carbon monoxide to dissipate from the house entirely. For instance, if it is your car that is producing the carbon monoxide, removing the car from your house will ensure that there is no source of carbon monoxide, thus reducing the time it takes for it to completely dissipate from the house.
Typically, carbon monoxide comes from devices that burn fuel. More specifically, it is a common byproduct of partial combustion. Cars are a very commonly used example of carbon monoxide. Aside from this, gas-powered space heaters are another device that can produce carbon monoxide. Gas stoves and just about anything that is gas-powered are going to be things that produce carbon monoxide. Furnaces and chimneys are also sources of carbon monoxide that you need to be wary of.
How Long Does it Take For Carbon Monoxide To Dissipate?
In the human body, where there is usually a steady stream of fresh air flowing in, the half life of carbon monoxide is five hours. This can be roughly translated to a half life of about five hours for a well-ventilated house as well. The half life means that after the specified amount of time, in this case five hours, half of the carbon monoxide will be gone. In another five hours, half of what’s left will be gone. Give it another five hours and another half will go away.
This means that, depending on how bad the leak was, it can take a day or two for it to dissipate, potentially more if you want to be on the cautious side. If the leak was relatively small, you won’t have to wait as long for it to completely dissipate. You should always err on the side of caution when it comes to things that are as dangerous and as deadly as carbon monoxide. Staying away from your home for an extra day, while inconvenient, can also help your own health as you won’t be coming home to a place that has lingering carbon monoxide in the air, starting the trouble all over again.