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Home & Health

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas. It cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, and can be fatal when high levels are inhaled. Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of the flu and allergies. Carbon monoxide poisoning may also be misdiagnosed as a headache, stroke, food poisoning or heart disease. According to HUD, more than 500 people die from accidental CO poisoning each year in the U.S.

The Facts

Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that can poison, and even kill, those exposed to it. It can be found both indoors and outdoors, but is particularly dangerous when contained in an indoor environment such as a home. Understanding how carbon monoxide can become a part of a home environment, and how you can detect and prevent it, is an essential step in keeping your family safe.

Sources

Sources of carbon monoxide (CO) include:

  • Using the oven as heater
  • Combustion gases leaking out from furnaces, water heaters or fireplaces
  • Ventless heater, fireplace or stove
  • Car exhaust from attached garage
  • Backdrafting: the reverse flow of gas in the flues of fuel-fired appliances that results in the intrusion of combustion byproducts into the living space.
  • Missing, obstructed, or disconnected exhaust flues on combustion appliances.1

Effects

At low concentrations:

  • Fatigue in healthy people
  • Chest pain in people with heart disease

At high concentrations:

  • Impaired vision and coordination
  • Headaches, dizziness and confusion
  • Nausea and reduced brain function
  • Unconsciousness
  • Death2

Actions You Can Take

Regular Maintenance

  • Have fuel burning appliances serviced twice a year to ensure and that they are working properly.
  • Have your heating system and chimneys inspected each year.
  • Replace dirty air filters on heating and cooling systems.
  • During winter months, check often to ensure vents, flues and chimneys are not blocked by snow or ice.

Proper Precautions

  • Hire a professional to install fuel burning appliances
  • Do not use a gas range or oven to heat your home.
  • Never run your car in a closed garage.
  • Never run a generator, power washer or any diesel or gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, an enclosed structure or near open windows.
  • Keep your home well ventilated.
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, camping lantern or portable stove inside your home, tent or camper.

Install carbon monoxide detectors:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper installation.
  • Place near sleeping areas.
  • Put one on every level of your home for extra protection.
  • Do not install directly above or beside fuel-burning appliances.
  • Do not install detectors near the bathroom or any other areas that produce moisture.
  • Test the alarm every six months and replace the batteries or unit as needed. The average life of a CO detector is seven years.3

GET HELP NOW

Contact GHHI to see how you can keep your home safe from carbon monoxide.

  1. About Carbon Monoxide. (2017). Retrieved April 09, 2018, from https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/healthy_homes/healthyhomes/carbonmonoxide
  2. About Carbon Monoxide. Ibid.
  3. About Carbon Monoxide. Ibid.