Carbon Monoxide Facts


  • Carbon Monoxide is a silent killer
  • Carbon Monoxide can cause illness, brain damage and birth defects
  • Carbon Monoxide is responsible for 500 to 1000 deaths per year in the United States

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas produced when any carbon-based fuel is burned. It is colorless and odorless; therefore, you may not be aware of its presence. CO can collect in enclosed spaces (including homes, offices, and workshops) without the awareness of the occupants.

According to the National Safety Council and the Center for Disease Control, approximately 500 to 1000 people are killed in the home each year by CO. Nearly 5,000 people in the United States are treated in emergency rooms for carbon monoxide poisoning. It is believed that many other people are made ill by exposure to elevated CO levels, but are either misdiagnosed or untreated.

What are some common sources of carbon monoxide in the home or workshop?

Most carbon monoxide produced in homes comes from combustion of fuel for heating and cooking. CO may accumulate in the home when a blocked chimney, broken chimney flue, or damaged furnace heat exchanger allows gases to enter the home. It can also enter the home from the garage when an automobile, lawn mower, or other engine is in operation. Backdrafting chimneys and flues (common when ventilation fans are used in tightly sealed homes) may allow combustion gases, including carbon monoxide, to enter the home.

Gas stoves and ranges can produce CO, which can present problems if the appliances are used for prolonged periods or if they are not operated properly. Gas ranges are not intended to be used to heat the home. Some other common sources of carbon monoxide include unvented fuel burning space heaters and indoor use of charcoal for heating or cooking. (Note: charcoal should NEVER be burned indoors.)

What are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide bonds to hemoglobin in red blood cells, interfering with the capacity of the hemoglobin to transport oxygen throughout the body. Common symptoms of CO poisoning include nausea, dizziness, weakness, muscle aches, vomiting, and a general weakness or sleepiness. Because the symptoms may resemble the "flu" or food poisoning, carbon monoxide exposure may be mistaken for these common illnesses. Carbon monoxide usually affects all occupants of a household at the same time (which may help distinguish carbon monoxide poisoning from the flu.) Higher dosages of CO can cause impaired judgment, confusion, paralysis, coma, and death.

Victims of CO poisoning must be removed from exposure as quickly as possible. They require prompt medical attention. Symptoms may not disappear immediately after the victim is removed from exposure to the gas; in some cases symptoms may recur days or weeks later.

How can you protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning?

Regular inspection and maintenance of all fuel-burning appliances (stoves, furnaces, water heaters, dryers, etc.) should be conducted by a qualified technician. Metal flues and heat exchangers should be inspected for signs of rust or cracking. Follow recommendations in owners' manuals to ensure proper use of all appliances. Gas ranges, ovens, and clothes dryers are not intended to be used to heat the home.

Do not use "outdoor" appliances (such as barbeque grills or construction space heaters) indoors. Garages and workshops are "indoors"; they are enclosed spaces in which combustion gases may accumulate.

ALERT!!! : Carbon monoxide detectors carrying the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) listing are NOT recommended.  Simply turn the packaging over and read the warnings to find out why. 



The ONLY way you can protect your family at the levels indicated to prevent illness or possible death is to invest in a LOW LEVEL CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM.  Call us for more information!