Carbon Monoxide

What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. It is a common byproduct of incomplete combustion that is produced when fuels such as oil, gas, coal or wood are burned.

Carbon monoxide can be produced by gas or oil burning appliances such as furnaces, clothes dryers, water heaters, ranges, ovens, or space heaters. Carbon monoxide is also produced by fireplaces and wood burning stoves.

Note: Because you can't see, taste, or smell carbon monoxide, it can make you sick or even kill you.

What Are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be mild to life-threatening. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms can be similar to the flu and often include headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, and fatigue. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, confusion, irritability, and in the most severe case, unconsciousness and death.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms become more severe as the level of carbon monoxide increases and/or the length of exposure continues.

If you experience any of these symptoms and suspect that carbon monoxide may be a factor, get out of the house immediately and call 911. The Fire Department has a special meter to determine if there are high levels of carbon monoxide and they attempt to locate the problem. If carbon monoxide is determined to be the problem, the source of the carbon monoxide must be eliminated before you can return to your home.

How Can I Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

The proper maintenance and use of fuel-burning appliances is essential to preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. Every property owner, property manager, or landlord should:
  • Check all appliances that use natural gas, oil, wood or kerosene. These include water heaters, clothes dryers, ranges, ovens, gas-powered refrigerators, and portable heaters.
  • Check all of your ventilation systems such as flues, chimneys, and fireplaces for cracks and blockages.
  • Ensure that household appliances are installed and running correctly. Have a professional technician check fuel-burning appliances, furnaces, chimneys and vents at least annually for blockages, corrosion, debris and faulty connections.
  • Make sure space heaters are vented properly.
  • Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even if the garage door is open.
  • Never operate generators indoors.
  • Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in a room with closed doors or windows or in rooms where people are sleeping.
  • Never use gasoline-powered tools and engines indoors.
  • Never use gas-powered appliances such as an oven or clothes dryer for heating a home.
  • Use a professional and licensed contractor to service fuel-burning appliances and equipment.
Additional information about carbon monoxide poisoning is available through the National Fire Protection Association.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home. For the best protection, interconnect all of the alarms throughout the home so that if one sounds, they all sound.
  • A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
  • Choose a carbon monoxide alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the Fire Department.
  • If the carbon monoxide alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a fresh air location and stay there until the Fire Department arrives.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if the garage doors are open.
  • Test your carbon monoxide alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Gas or charcoal grills can produce carbon monoxide - only use them outside.