Kidde, a carbon monoxide alarm seller, recommends that every home with at least one fuel-burning appliance, attached garage or fireplace have a CO alarm, which should be installed in the main bedroom or in the hallway outside of the sleeping area. The following excerpts from Wikipedia pages, explain what Carbon Monoxide is, what happens to the body during exposure, and the prescribed treatment:
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs after enough inhalation of carbon monoxide (CO). Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas, but, being colorless, odorless, tasteless, and initially non-irritating, it is very difficult for people to detect. Carbon monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion of organic matter due to insufficient oxygen supply to enable complete oxidation to carbon dioxide (CO2). It is often produced in domestic or industrial settings by motor vehicles that run on gasoline, diesel, methane, or other carbon-based fuels and from tools, gas heaters, and cooking equipment that are powered by carbon-based fuels such as propane, butane and charcoal. Exposure at 100 ppm or greater can be dangerous to human health. Symptoms of mild acute poisoning will include light-headedness, confusion, headaches, vertigo, and flu-like effects; larger exposures can lead to significant toxicity of the central nervous system and heart, and death. Chronic exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can lead to depression, confusion, and memory loss. Carbon monoxide mainly causes adverse effects in humans by combining with hemoglobin to form carboxyhemoglobin (HbCO) in the blood.
Carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) (illustration) is a stable complex of carbon monoxide and hemoglobin that forms in red blood cells upon contact with carbon monoxide (CO). Large quantities of CO hinders the ability of Hb to deliver oxygen to the body. CO is produced in normal metabolism and is also a common chemical. Tobacco smoking (through carbon monoxide inhalation) raises the blood levels of COHb by a factor of several times from its normal concentrations. Hemoglobin contains four heme groups each capable of reversibly binding to one oxygen molecule. Oxygen binding to any of these sites causes a conformational change in the protein, facilitating binding to each of the other sites. Carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin at the same sites as oxygen, but approximately 200 times more tightly. Normally, oxygen would bind to hemoglobin in the lungs and be released in areas with low oxygen partial pressure (e.g. active muscles). When carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin, it cannot be released as easily as oxygen. The slow release rate of carbon monoxide causes an accumulation of CO-bound hemoglobin molecules as exposure to carbon monoxide continues. Because of this, fewer hemoglobin particles are available to bind and deliver oxygen, thus causing the gradual suffocation associated with carbon monoxide poisoning. Since COHb releases carbon monoxide slowly, less haemoglobin will be available to transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Conversion of most Hb to COHb results in death -known medically as carboxyhemoglobinemia or carbon monoxide poisoning. Smaller amounts COHb lead to oxygen deprivation of the body causing tiredness, dizziness, and unconsciousness. COHb has a half-life in the blood of 4 to 6 hours. This time can be reduced to 70 to 35 minutes with administration of pure oxygen (the lower number applying when oxygen is administered with 4 to 5% CO2 to cause hyperventilation). Additionally, treatment in a Hyperbaric Chamber is a more effective manner of reducing the half-life of COHb than administering oxygen alone.