Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas produced by burning gasoline, wood, propane, charcoal or other fuel. When these fuels burn incompletely, CO is produced. Home heating and cooking appliances can produce CO if damaged, misused or improperly ventilated. Vehicles such as cars, trucks, tractors and lawn mowers are also a source of CO. Any motor allowed to run indoors can produce dangerous levels of CO that can kill quickly.
Common household sources of CO include vehicles, generators, gas ranges, ovens, furnaces, small gasoline power equipment like weed trimmers and chain saws, boat engines, gas and camp stoves, lanterns, and burning charcoal and wood. Recent research has shown that CO can even penetrate drywall at toxic levels, which is why you should never warm up your vehicle in an attached garage, or use a barbeque or generator indoors, in the garage, or in a carport.
Steps you can take to protect your loved ones from CO poisoning:
- Install Carbon Monoxide Alarms – install at least one CO alarm on each level of your home, in the hallway near each sleeping area. Make sure its warning signal is clearly audible. Replace CO alarms as recommended by the manufacturer, typically every 2-5 years. CO alarms are also available for motor homes and boats.
- Do not run motors indoors – never warm up your car in the garage, even with the door open. And never place a gas powered generator inside your home, garage or carport.
- Inspect heat sources – have a qualified professional inspect, and if necessary repair, all chimneys, fireplaces and wood stoves each year before the onset of cold weather.
- Do not operate gas and charcoal barbeque indoors – grills can produce CO. Never use them inside or in the garage, even it the garage doors are opened.
Breathing in high levels of CO can make you pass out and eventually kill you. Senior citizens, infants, children, pregnant women, and people with certain medical conditions are more susceptible to CO poisoning than a healthy adult. Symptoms of low-level CO poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to the flu: headaches, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide builds up in the bloodstream. When too much carbon monoxide is in the air, the body replaces the oxygen in the red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This can lead to serious tissue damage or even death. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur by exposure to a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time. In certain conditions, CO can kill a person in a matter of a few minutes – and everyone is particularly vulnerable while sleeping – which is why early CO detection is so important.
Remember: Carbon Monoxide Alarms are NOT smoke alarms. You need both – or combo units – in your home!