Carbon Monoxide

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because you cannot see, taste or smell its toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include: headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue.

Where does carbon monoxide come from?

CO gas can come from several sources including gas-fired appliances, charcoal grills, wood-burning furnaces or fireplaces and motor vehicles.

Who is at risk?

Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. According to the United States Fire Administration, unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens and people with heart or lung problems are at even greater risk for CO poisoning.

What can you do?

• Install at least one Underwriters Laboratories-listed carbon monoxide detector with an audible alarm near sleeping areas and outside individual bedrooms. Carbon monoxide detectors measure levels of CO over time and are designed to go off before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. It is very possible you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear the alarm. This does not mean that CO is not present.
• Have a qualified professional check all fuel-burning appliances, furnaces, vents and chimney systems at least once a year.
• Never use your range or oven to help heat your home, and never use a grill or hibachi in your home or garage.
• Never keep a car running in a garage. Even if the garage doors are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.
• When buying a home, have a qualified technician evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems as well as the sealed spaces between the garage and house. Having a carbon monoxide alarm in your home can save your life in the event of CO buildup.

What actions do I take if my carbon monoxide alarm goes off?

If no one is feeling ill:
• Silence the alarm
• Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (i.e. furnace and fireplace).
• Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows.
• Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup.

If someone in the house is experiencing headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea or fatigue:
• Evacuate all occupants immediately.
• Determine how many occupants are ill and their symptoms.
• Call 9-1-1 and tell them the number of people feeling ill.
• Do not reenter the home without the approval of a fire department representative.
• Call a qualified professional to repair the source of the CO.