Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen in the blood to the rest of the body.

Carbon Monoxide is particularly dangerous because you cannot see, smell or taste it. When CO is present, it attaches to the hemoglobin in the bloodstream, displacing oxygen as it travels through the cells in your body. It quickly builds up in the blood, forming a toxic compound which causes flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion and irritability. Very high levels of this compound can cause death.

Who is at risk for Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

The short answer is everyone. Pregnant women, infants, children, elderly, and people with heart and lung problems are more vulnerable to the effects of CO.

Where does Carbon Monoxide come from?

It is produced from the incomplete burning of fuels such as coal, wood, charcoal, natural gas and fuel oil. CO can be emitted from many sources including ones in your home including unvented kerosene, gas space heaters, furnaces, wood stoves, gas stoves, fireplaces, water heaters, and charcoal grills. Automobile exhaust contains high amounts of CO; if a car is left running in an attached garage, CO can seep into a home.

How safe is my home from Carbon Monoxide?

Usually homes are properly vented to safely release CO outside. However, problems can arise from improper installation, maintenance, or inadequate ventilation. Newly built homes are especially vulnerable, because insulation and energy-efficient windows and doors can trap CO polluted air in the home.

What about Carbon Monoxide detectors?

Carbon Monoxide detectors are at most a backup and should not be considered a replacement for proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances. CO detectors should meet UL standards, have a long-term warranty, and must be self-tested and reset to ensure proper functioning. To be most effective, Carbon Monoxide detectors should be installed close to sleeping areas.

What if I have carbon monoxide poisoning?

Do not ignore symptoms, especially if more than one person is experiencing them. If you think you are suffering from CO poisoning you should:
  • Get fresh air immediately.
  • Open doors and windows.
  • Turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
  • Go to an emergency room.
  • Be sure to let the medical staff know that you suspect CO poisoning.
  • Ensure that appliances are properly adjusted and working to manufacturer's’ instructions and local building codes.
  • Obtain annual inspections especially for heating systems, chimneys, and flues as well as having them cleaned by a qualified technician.
  • Open flues when using your fireplace.
  • Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.
  • Do not use ovens and gas ranges to heat your home.
  • Do not burn charcoal inside a home, cabin, recreational vehicle or camper.
  • Make sure stoves and heaters are vented to the outside and that exhaust systems do not leak.
  • Do not use unvented gas or kerosene space heaters in enclosed spaces.
  • Never leave a car or lawn mower engine running in a shed or garage (even if the garage door is open), or in any enclosed space.
  • Make sure your furnace has adequate intake of outside air.