Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas that you can’t see, taste, feel, or smell. Over 500 people in the U.S. die from CO inhalation every year. Persons with CO poisoning display symptoms similar to the flu. People who survive often suffer brain damage, heart problems, or loss of sight or hearing. CO is particularly harmful to children, unborn babies, the elderly, and asthma sufferers.

To keep CO in your home under control, keep an eye on fuel-burning appliances. Most gas appliances that have been put in and taken care of properly meet safety standards. Check for improperly installed or unvented appliances. Watch out for these common sources of CO:

  • Gas and oil furnaces, boilers, and water heaters
  • Wood-burning fireplaces and stoves
  • Gas and charcoal grills
  • Gas appliances like ovens, stoves, and dryers
  • Gas and kerosene space heaters
  • Cars, trucks, campers, tractors, and other vehicles
  • Gasoline and liquid propane powered small equipment, including lawn mowers, snow blowers, chainsaws, pressure washers, and electric generators
  • Recreational vehicles, including boat motors, all-terrain vehicles, ski boats, and generators in campers and houseboats
  • Tobacco smoke
  • House fires
  • Blocked chimneys and flues

Safety Checklist

  1. Turn off appliances that start making different noises, that start producing soot, producing a yellow or orange flame, or smell unusual. Call a repairman.
  2. Read the instructions that came with your appliances to make sure they are properly vented.
  3. Keep wood, paper, cloth, and other flammables away from heating appliances.
  4. Get your furnace checked every year by a qualified heating and cooling technician. Ask him or her to inspect your chimney or other venting system.
  5. Improper insulation and weather-striping can block ventilation. Call a heating contractor to make sure it is done right.
  6. If your smoke detector or CO detector alarm goes off, or if you smell gas, get out and call 911.

Carbon Monoxide web links and contact information: