Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Prevent and Identify CO Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that is extremely toxic and potentially deadly. Breathing too much CO deprives the body of essential oxygen and can cause physical impairment (such as brain damage) and/or death by asphyxiation.

Because it can’t be seen, smelled, or tasted, this gas poses a deadly threat to homeowners everywhere. In fact, hundreds of people needlessly die each year due to CO inhalation and over 40,000 seek medical attention because of CO poisoning. Knowing the sources of CO, the symptoms of poisoning, and prevention methods can be a matter of life and death.

CO Sources

Carbon monoxide is produced from the incomplete combustion of wood, fuel oil, propane, butane, gasoline, kerosene, or natural gas. CO is found in the fumes produced by portable generators, stoves, lanterns and gas ranges, or by burning wood or charcoal. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or partially enclosed areas.

Symptoms of CO Poisoning

A person exposed to carbon monoxide may exhibit flu-like symptoms, including but not limited to: dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tightness in the chest, confusion, headache, and/or fatigue. If CO poisoning is suspected, move the victim into fresh air if possible, and call 9-1-1 immediately.

CO Poisoning Prevention

Vehicle exhaust is responsible for more than half of the unintentional CO deaths each year. However, CO can build up in a home from other sources, especially in times of severe whether when generators and lanterns are used for heat and light. Every home should have a CO detector installed to alert to high levels of CO in the home, and batteries should be changed every six months, just as with smoke detectors.

Other tips to help prevent accidental CO poisoning:

  • Never burn a charcoal or wood grill indoors or in a garage
  • Never sit in a parked car with the engine running and the windows closed
  • Never operate a car in an enclosed area such as a garage
  • Never operate kerosene or propane heaters indoors without proper ventilation
  • Never use the gas range or oven for home heating
  • Never block or close a source of combustion air to a heat-producing appliance
  • Never close the damper of a fireplace unless the fire is completely out
  • Never operate a furnace without the fan compartment door in place
  • Never use heat-producing appliances that are not properly installed and maintained regularly and always follow manufacturer’s recommendation for maintenance