30 North Broad, P.O. Box 391, Ridgway, Pa. 15853 
     Ph: 814-772-8085 - Fax: 814-772-3665

 Ridgway Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

When there is not enough oxygen in the air when carbon is introduced, carbon monoxide is formed instead of the more common by-product, carbon dioxide. Carbon monoxide is typically produced from combustion in an engine, such as that in an automobile. It is a very toxic gas, and there have been many cases of death when people have inhaled too much of it.


  • Carbon monoxide is composed of a bond between a carbon atom and an oxygen atom. This bond consists of two covalent bonds, which is where both atoms share an electron with the other atom. The third bond that makes up the larger bond between these two atoms is a coordinate covalent bond, where one atom shares two electrons with the other atom. These bonds can be seen at the atomic level and are what scientists use to identify carbon monoxide.


  • Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas because it is highly toxic. What makes it even more dangerous are the various features it possesses due to its bonding and chemical makeup. For one, the gas has no color, making it completely invisible. There are many invisible gases that can still be detected, but carbon monoxide, cannot be felt or smelled. Basically, it is an undetectable toxin. It is also a highly flammable gas that burns a blue, oxygen-rich flame.


  • Carbon monoxide is such a common toxic gas, that it is the leading cause of toxic poisoning in many parts of the world. When it is breathed in, the gas affects the central nervous system and the heart. This can cause long-term health effects that include erratic heartbeats, a weakened circulatory system, or even paralysis of various parts of the body. If a person is exposed to carbon monoxide long enough, death can and often does occur.

What Is the Correct Height for a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

Height Considerations

  • Home carbon monoxide detectors should be installed in central locations outside sleeping areas. When you lie down to sleep, your head is knee high. Alarms near where you are sleeping will detect levels at head height, and you will be more likely to wake when it sounds. Waist height is also acceptable, if necessary to avoid damage by pets or children, but do not hang it where there are obstructions to normal air flow.