Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the 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. The effects of CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure. Carbon monoxide binds to our hemoglobin 200 times faster than oxygen when the exposure is high enough, you can develop these symptoms from exposure to carbon monoxide:
  • Cherry red skin
  • Confusion/stupor
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Possible death
Who is at Risk?
Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Medical experts believe that people with low red blood cell counts, unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens and people with heart or lung problems are at even greater risk for CO poisoning.

What Produces CO Fumes

Carbon monoxide fumes build up where there is poor ventilation particularly in an enclosed area. The following is a list of items that can produce such deadly fumes:
  • Any type of fuel burning appliance
  • Burning charcoal
  • Exhaust from cars and trucks
  • Fireplace chimney
  • Gas burning generators
  • Gas ranges
  • Gas stoves
  • Hot water heater
  • Kerosene lanterns
  • Wood burning stove
Reduce the Chances of CO Poisoning
To further reduce the chances of you or a loved one becoming overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning follow these preventive tips:
  • Install at least 1 carbon monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal near the sleeping areas and outside individual bedrooms. Make sure the alarm has been evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Carbon monoxide alarms measure levels of CO over time and are designed to sound an alarm before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. It is very possible that you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear the alarm. This does not mean that CO is not present.
  • Never heat your home with a gas stove /gas range
  • Never use a charcoal grill or a hibachi in your home
  • Never use a gas powered generator or a gas powered machine in the home or basement
  • Make sure all fuel burning appliances are properly installed and maintained by a certified technician
  • Never use a gas powered machine by an open window (fumes can seep into the home)
  • Make sure fireplace, chimneys and flues are checked and cleaned every year
  • Never sit in a car or leave it running in a closed garage
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home and check it regularly to make sure the battery is working
  • When purchasing an existing 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. The presence of a carbon monoxide alarm in your home can save your life in the event of CO buildup.
If Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off
Here are the actions you need to take if your carbon monoxide alarm goes off depending on whether anyone is feeling ill or not.

If no one is feeling ill:
  1. Silence the alarm
  2. Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (i.e. furnace and fireplace)
  3. Ventilate the house with fresh air by opening doors and windows
  4. Call a qualified professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup
If illness is a factor:
  1. Evacuate all occupants immediately
  2. Determine how many occupants are ill and determine their symptoms
  3. Call 911 and when relaying information to the dispatcher, include the number of people feeling ill
  4. Follow instructions from operator and await the help of a trained medical professional
  5. Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a fire department representative
  6. Call a qualified professional to repair the source of the CO