Carbon monoxide is a compound created when one carbon atom and one oxygen atom combine. It is formed naturally as a result of photochemical reactions in the lower part of the earth’s atmosphere and as a result of the combustion that occurs in volcanic eruptions and forest fires.
In nature, carbon monoxide typically is a short-lived compound as it is readily converted into carbon dioxide and ozone. It can be toxic to humans and animals in large doses and can cause significant symptoms even at low rates of exposure.
Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless and produces few distinguishable physical symptoms before reaching toxic levels within the body; as a result, carbon monoxide poisoning is often overlooked or misdiagnosed, making it difficult to obtain an accurate assessment of the scale of the problem. In addition, carbon monoxide is only slightly lighter than air and easily mixes with the ambient air inside the home, making it even more difficult to pinpoint the source of carbon monoxide toxicity.