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Significance and Use
3.1 This guide is intended for use by individuals who investigate incidents involving carbon monoxide poisoning. If this guide is followed, the cause for the carbon monoxide poisoning incident may be determined, and corrective action may be identified to prevent future incidents.
3.2 When attempting to identify the source of carbon monoxide, consider that it is produced at some level in virtually every fuel-burning engine, boiler, furnace, burner, stove or fire. All carbon-based fuels (for example, gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas, propane, coal, wood, paper products, plastics) produce carbon monoxide as a result of incomplete combustion. When there is insufficient air for complete combustion, carbon monoxide can become a major product of combustion. In properly-operating combustion equipment, the level of carbon monoxide produced may be as little as a hundred parts per million or less (that is, 0.01 %). However, combustion with insufficient air can produce carbon monoxide concentrations of 10 000 ppm to 100 000 ppm (that is, 1 to 10 %) or higher.
3.3 Be aware of the effects of carbon monoxide on humans and pets. Carbon monoxide acts as a central nervous system depressant. With increasing concentration or time of exposure, or both, carbon monoxide will cause people to feel sleepy or sick, lose consciousness, and die. Carbon monoxide is especially hazardous because it is colorless and odorless, providing no warning of its presence. When inhaled, carbon monoxide binds with hemoglobin in the blood, creating carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). The affinity of carbon monoxide for hemoglobin is approximately 200 times greater than the affinity of oxygen for hemoglobin. Therefore, the blood can accumulate dangerous levels of COHb, depriving the body of oxygen.
3.4 Since there is the potential for investigators to become victims of elevated carbon monoxide levels themselves, extreme care should be taken to assure the safety of investigators and anyone else at risk of continuing carbon monoxide exposure. Carbon monoxide monitoring and measurement equipment is required to ensure life safety of those present, as well as to determine the cause of the problem and its solution.
1.1 This guide covers collection and preservation of information and physical evidence related to incidents involving the poisoning of individuals by carbon monoxide.
1.2 This guide is not intended to address the medical effects of carbon monoxide exposure.
1.3 This guide is not intended to be a guide for investigating carbon monoxide poisoning caused by hostile fires, or contamination in closed air systems or confined spaces. Guidance on the investigation of carbon monoxide poisonings related to fire can be found in NFPA 921.
1.4 This guide is not intended for an investigation where equipment is removed from the incident site and conducted in a more controlled setting.
1.5 This guide is intended to be used by a wide range of investigators, including first responders, appliance technicians and engineers.
1.6 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.
2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.
E1459 Guide for Physical Evidence Labeling and Related Documentation
E2713 Guide to Forensic Engineering
NFPA StandardsNFPA 54 National Fuel Gas Code NFPA 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations
UL StandardsUL2034 Single and Multiple Station Carbon Monoxide Alarms
ICS Number Code 13.300 (Protection against dangerous goods)
ASTM E2292-14, Standard Guide for Field Investigation of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Incidents, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2014, www.astm.orgBack to Top