Learning Center

Carbon Monoxide in the Home

Beware of the silent killer – carbon monoxide.

carbon monoxide detector

Carbon Monoxide, also known as CO, is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that kills more than 200 people each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Thousands more are treated in hospital emergency rooms after being exposed to the dangerous gas.

Sources of CO

Carbon monoxide is created when fossil fuels (such as gasoline, liquid petroleum gas, wood, coal, charcoal, propane, natural gas, oil and methane) burn incompletely.

Sources of carbon monoxide include:

  • Oil and gas furnaces
  • Gas water heaters
  • Wood and gas fireplaces
  • Gas ranges and ovens
  • Gas dryers
  • Gas or kerosene space heaters
  • Wood stoves
  • Vehicle engines
  • Charcoal grills
  • Generators

Preventing CO poisoning

It's important to understand the potential hazards in using these household appliances, and the safety measures you can take to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. The following information was compiled from three expert sources: the CPSC, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

  • Install a carbon monoxide detector labeled with the UL 2034 safety standard. Test detectors regularly. Locate detectors near sleeping areas. Ideally, put a detector on each floor of your home. Install detectors on boats and recreational vehicles.

  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune up central heating systems annually.

  • Open flues when using fireplaces.

  • Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet the EPA emission standards. Make sure doors on all wood stoves fit tightly.

  • Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.

  • Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.

  • Do not idle your vehicle in a garage.

  • Do not use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, garage or near a window.

  • Symptoms of CO poisoning

    If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s important to get fresh air immediately and see a doctor.

    • Shortness of breath
    • Fatigue
    • Nausea
    • Headaches
    • Dizziness
    • Mental confusion
    • Vomiting
    • Loss of coordination
    • Fainting

    Additional carbon monoxide poisoning protection resources

    For more information about protecting your family from carbon monoxide hazards, visit these sites:

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