Known as the silent killer, carbon monoxide is a hazard that is all too common in our indoor environments. Since the gas is very toxic in high concentrations and even small amounts can have negative effects on our health, it’s important to be able to detect its presence and know which steps to take to eliminate it from the air.
In this article, find out more about carbon monoxide and whether air purifiers can be effective against it.
Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that has no colour, odour or taste, making it very difficult to detect. When inhaled, it reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, which can prove lethal in severe cases.
Carbon monoxide is produced during fuel combustion, with common sources including gas generators, charcoal grills, vehicle exhaust, gas stoves, blocked chimney flues and second-hand smoke. The risk of exposure tends to be higher in the winter months because most homes are heated using fuel-burning appliances that can emit carbon monoxide if they malfunction or are poorly installed or maintained.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Exposure to the gas causes carbon monoxide poisoning that can begin to affect you before you even notice its presence. Symptoms range in severity depending on the intensity and length of exposure.
When it comes to carbon monoxide, not all whole house air purifiers are created equal. Air purifiers with HEPA filters, while very effective against small particles such as pet dander, dust and mold, can do little against harmful gases. Air purifiers equipped with activated carbon filters do best against carbon monoxide.
Activated carbon filters remove pollutants from the air through the filter and adhere to the surface of the activated carbon and become trapped. Note that the surface of the activated carbon filter will eventually become saturated with pollutants and cease to function effectively, so it must be replaced regularly.
Air purifier limitations: significant levels of carbon monoxide
It is vital to understand that while portable UV air purifiers with an activated carbon filter work well against trace amounts of carbon monoxide found in ambient air pollution, they are not effective against significant levels of carbon monoxide. If you suspect that there is a substantial source of carbon monoxide in or around your home, it must be dealt with directly.
In the event of a major carbon monoxide leak, vacate the building immediately and contact emergency services. Professionals will need to eliminate the carbon monoxide before you can reenter the premises.
While air purifiers are able to eliminate trace amounts of carbon monoxide, they are not able to detect and alert residents to its presence. There is a completely different device, known as a carbon monoxide detector, that offers this function.