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Carbon Monoxide: Alarms or Monitors?

Typical UL listed carbon monoxide alarms, sold at retail stores, are not appropriate for infants, young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and/or, people with chronic conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease or anemia because they only sense CO levels at 30 ppm after 30 days.


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A Kidde UL listed CO monitor manual states: “This device is designed to protect individuals from acute effects of carbon monoxide exposure. It will not fully safeguard individuals with specific medical conditions. If in doubt, consult a medical practitioner. Individuals with medical problems may consider using warning devices, which provide audible and visual signals for carbon monoxide concentrations under 30 ppm.”


The American Lung Association Health House program is committed to healthier indoor air quality and, as such, supports the installation of carbon monoxide alarms in all residences. But we believe that protection from life threatening levels of carbon monoxide is a minimum level of protection people should expect in their own homes.


In a typical year, 10,000 Americans seek medical attention for accidental CO exposure. According to Underwriters Laboratories, about 500 people die annually from CO exposure.


CO has several sources, namely gas appliances. Average levels in homes without gas stoves vary from 0.5 to 5 ppm. Levels near properly adjusted gas stoves are often 5 to 15 ppm and those near poorly adjusted stoves may be 30 ppm or higher. Attached garages with idling cars can also be a significant source of CO. All these levels, higher than permissible outdoor air amounts, would be ignored by UL 2034 detectors, which are designed as a life safety, instead of a health protection device.


At low concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, CO can cause impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion and nausea. It also can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving home. CO is fatal at very high concentrations.


The American Lung Association Health House program is offering a low level CO monitor that will display levels as low as 10 ppm and keep a history of levels so that professional responders can quickly and accurately evaluate the severity and potential sources of CO exposure as well as estimate carboxyhemoglobin levels. This early warning will prevent exposure to potentially dangerous levels of CO.


These monitors are sold by industry professionals for $189 and up and are available at the Health House website for $140 (



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HHI is committed to accuracy of content and correcting information that is incomplete or inaccurate. With our broad scope of coverage of healthful indoor environments, and desire to rapidly publish info to benefit the community, mistakes are inevitable. HHI has established an error correction policy to welcome corrections or enhancements to our information. Please help us improve the quality of our content by contacting with corrections or suggestions for improvement. Each contact will receive a respectful reply.

The Healthy House Institute (HHI), a for-profit educational LLC, provides the information on as a free service to the public. The intent is to disseminate accurate, verified and science-based information on creating healthy home environments.


While an effort is made to ensure the quality of the content and credibility of sources listed on this site, HHI provides no warranty - expressed or implied - and assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, product or process disclosed on or in conjunction with the site. The views and opinions of the authors or originators expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of HHI: its principals, executives, Board members, advisors or affiliates.

Carbon Monoxide: Alarms or Monitors?:  Created on April 11th, 2007.  Last Modified on January 11th, 2010


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About Dan Johnston

Dan Johnston is National Director of the American Lung Association® Health House® program (




Information provided by The Healthy House Institute is designed to support, not to replace the relationship between patient/physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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