Responded to carbon monoxide detector alarm call, and using our "MSA MiniCO" detector found no problems (no elevated levels - less than 3 ppm) with the stove, furnace, dryer, hot water heater, or fireplaces. The residents reported no symptoms of headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, etc., and they had not opened windows or doors prior to our arrival. The resident reported that the alarm had sounded intermitently a few times before becoming continous. The detector was biomimetic style; "First Alert" with a brand new battery (battery was just changed - all smoke detectors too - by resident over the weekend when he turned the clocks back for daylight savings time) and the sensor modules were green/brown. Their daughter had four girlfriends over and they were all doing their finger and toe nails. It's my theory that the acetones in the nail polish remover being used by the girls confused the detector. Any thoughts, comments, or similar experiences?
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Thread: carbon monoxide
11-03-1999, 11:53 AM #1EPFD-ALFirehouse.com Guest
11-03-1999, 01:53 PM #2Bob SnyderFirehouse.com Guest
Sorry, I can't help you with your theory one way or the other. All I can say is that CO detectors may be (as a group) one of the least reliable devices I've ever had to deal with. Just off the top of my head, I'd say that maybe 1 CO call in 9 or 10 results in anything above trace readings on our CO meter (putting aside the situations where the homeowner vents the structure). We've had the meter tested and it works, so that's not the problem. It's really frustrating.
11-03-1999, 06:38 PM #3wannabe-EMTFirehouse.com Guest
My CO detector went off once, and although the FD was not called, the gas company was. They came and inspected everything - stove, furnace, water heater, etc - and found no elevated CO levels. However, there are smokers in the household, and the fellow speculated that, from walking past the detector with lit cigarettes for so long, CO levels accumulated in/around the sensor module until the device registered "dangerous" levels.
FYI, at the time, I was suffering from some sort of illness including nausea and fatigue, although it most likely wasn't CO related, as I had it for about a day before the detector went off. We did vent the structure before the gas company arrived. And the make of the CO detector (just for informational purposes - I'm passing no judgement on the device) was First Alert.
Peace, and stay safe.
11-04-1999, 03:07 PM #4Tom GranatFirehouse.com Guest
Your situation got my curosity up and I did some research on the web and found that the biomimetic sensors can be affected by some chemicals as well as CO. As you know with these sensors, when CO or one of these other chemicals are absorbed the fluid changes color and sets off the alarm. I don't know all the chemicals that will produce the reaction, but it looks like your theory is correct. If I find any more info I will post it
11-10-1999, 08:14 AM #5raricciutiFirehouse.com Guest
We've seen a few cross-sensitivity type CO alarms also. A couple paints, and some upholstery and carpet cleaning solvents seem to cause the detectors to false. We've never been able to pin down any one substance that was the culprit. My experience in general is that the majority of our CO alarms ARE valid - some bad boilers and furnaces, some loose/disconnected/rusted out flue pipes, a fair number of gas ovens (especially during holiday baking marathons), and quite a few "warm up the car in the garage" (with the door open) or just outside the garage incidents. Most homeowners don't realize that that the inside of their home generally has a negative pressure relative to outdoors, and just sucks in the CO from their vehicle. I have answered a bunch of bad sensor calls, but they are less than half of the incidents I've been to. Sometimes it just takes a bit of detective work - a lot of the CO problems are transient and hard to re-create. Take your time and check all possible sources, and try to determine the details surrounding the time whent the thing went off. If we could just get the people to call us when the detector went off - many wait until morning because they "didn't want to bother us" when their detector went off at 3 AM. That's what I'm here for! Of course, by morning the CO was gone... must be a bad detector - NOT! Be careful and stay safe.
R.A. Ricciuti, Firefighter
Mt. Lebanon Fire Department
11-10-1999, 01:15 PM #6Tom GranatFirehouse.com Guest
I sent an e-mail to Quantum Group, a mamufacturer of biomimetic sensors and the following is the reply I received: "With regards to your inquiry about biomietic sensors. Nail polish remover would not affect the sensor unless it was used in high dosage and very close to the detecor. Amonia does affect the sensors and can contaminate them. But, simple ventilation should be enough to regenerate the sensor."
I also found this statement on the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada web page:"Read the manufacturer's instructions carefully before installing a CO alarm. Do not place the alarm within five feet of household chemicals." I will keep searching to try and find a list of specific chemicals that the alarms may be sensitive to.
11-10-1999, 06:01 PM #7EPFD-ALFirehouse.com Guest
Tom Granat (Long Valley):
I sincerely appreciate all your time and effort in this matter. I recently spoke with an officer with Paramus Fire who also experienced a "nail polish" alarm. In both our cases the girls were using several open bottles near the CO detector. Thanks again!
11-14-1999, 11:27 AM #8Ken HanksFirehouse.com Guest
I have experienced biomimetic type CO detectors going into alarm from paint stripper (methly chloride).
A biomimetic sensor mimics human hemoglobin's affinity for CO. We have had situations where a CO event occurs, sets off the detector, and clears out before our arrival (example of a car running near an open garage). The meter will read 0 ppm, but the indicator on the sensor will be discolored.
This is similar to a person being exposed to CO and then brought into fresh air-it takes time to pruge the CO from the body.
I have had good luck with "plug in" type detectors, especially the ones with the digital read outs.
I'd have to agree with Bob Snyder, maybe 10% of our CO calls do we find elevated CO. I even had these (biomimetic) CO detectors go into alarm right out of the box with a new sensor.
Naugatuck FD IAFF L1219
CT Fire Academy
[This message has been edited by Ken Hanks (edited November 14, 1999).]
[This message has been edited by Ken Hanks (edited November 14, 1999).]
[This message has been edited by Ken Hanks (edited November 16, 1999).]
11-19-1999, 03:11 AM #9meshaFirehouse.com Guest
Here is an interesting thought.
recently we were called out to a CO detector call that had not indicated any CO from obvious sources. Although there was 70+ppm of CO measured on the minitor detector. Further investigation showed that the owner of the residence in question was charging up an automotive battery in his basement. Levels of CO nearby the battery were elevated to almost 300 ppm. As the responders closed in on the open top of the battery the levels exceeded 500 ppm. Now either the bettery was giving off high levels of CO or the measuring device was indicating H2 as CO. Any comments. They would be appreciated.
Tim Bennett walden Fire Department Ontario Canada
11-19-1999, 02:51 PM #10EPFD-ALFirehouse.com Guest
I had the exact same situation arise with a automotive battery charger once and couldn't find anyone with an explanation for me until I read a post in this forum from a firefighter ("itsl" from Oakville, Ontario, Canada) who had just completed a Haz Mat Tech course. His insights caused me to look for CO training in my area and I was lucky to find the County EMT Training Center had a free 3 hour first responders course for carbon monoxide emergencies. It was taught by a Fire Captain from Paramus NJ who had extensive training and experience with CO and he gave an OUTSTANDING presentation. He covered the NUMEROUS "contaminants" and "interference gasses" that will give our meters false readings in detail; and yes, the gasses (H2) given off by an automotive battery charger will activate a residential carbon monoxide detector and give our handhelds fits. If anyone is intrested; the EMT Center CO Course info/applications are available from:
Bergen County EMS Training Center at East 281 Pascack Road in Paramus, NJ 07652 (201) 967-0751.
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