Carbon Monoxide Safety
Carbon Monoxide: A Silent Killer in Your Home
By Stefanie Baines, MA, CHES
Education Coordinator, Poison Control Center at The University of Kansas Health System
As the temperatures start to cool, many of us will turn on our heating systems and fuel-burning appliances. Doing so, may put you and your family at risk for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning if the heating system and appliances aren’t working properly.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that kills without warning. It claims the lives of hundreds of people every year and makes thousands more ill. Many household items including gas- and oil-burning furnaces, portable generators, and charcoal grills produce this poisonous gas. CO poisoning can be prevented, learn how to keep your family safe.
What are the most common sources of carbon monoxide?
• Gasoline powered engines such as cars and boats
• Gas stoves and ovens
• Generators, charcoal grills and camp stoves
• Furnaces and water heaters
• Oil, gas or kerosene heaters
• Leaking chimneys or fireplaces
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms are similar to those of the flu. Symptoms include:
How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?
Take the following steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:
• Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home. Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas-burning appliances serviced by a professional each year.
• Never leave a vehicle running in a garage, even with the garage door open.
• Make sure your car’s tailpipe is clear of snow and other obstructions.
• Do not run fuel-powered tools or other equipment inside the home or garage, even with the door open.
• Never use a generator, grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside a home, basement, garage, or outside near an open window.
• Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly.
• Never use a gas range or oven to heat your home.
• Have your chimney cleaned and inspected every year.
How do I use a carbon monoxide detector?
• Detectors should be installed in the hallway near the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area and on every level of the home.
• Keep and read the instructions included with your detector for the manufacturer’s recommendation on battery replacement, alarms, cleaning of the detector, precautions and lifespan of the detector.
• Check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
What should I do if I suspect carbon monoxide poisoning?
• Get into fresh air immediately.
• Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 for further instructions.
• Call 911 or go to the ER (emergency room) if anyone has any symptoms or is pregnant.
• If you suspect a faulty appliance is letting out large amounts of carbon monoxide, call your local fire department or Gas Company for assistance in testing the air for CO.
• Do not re-enter the building until the fire department or Gas Company says it is safe.
For suspected cases of CO poisoning and other exposures, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.