General Frequently Asked Questions About Carbon Monoxide
1. WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE (CO)?
- Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless poisonous gas that can be fatal when inhaled.
- It is sometimes called the "silent killer."
- CO inhibits the blood's capacity to carry oxygen.
- CO can be produced when burning fuels such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil or wood.
- CO is the product of incomplete combustion. If you have fire, you have CO.
2. WHERE DOES CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) COME FROM?
- Any fuel-burning appliance that is malfunctioning or improperly installed.
- Furnaces, gas range/stove, gas clothes dryer, water heater, portable fuel-burning space heaters, fireplaces, generators and wood burning stoves.
- Vehicles, generators and other combustion engines running in an attached garage.
- Blocked chimney or flue.
- Cracked or loose furnace exchanger.
- Back drafting and changes in air pressure.
- Operating a grill in an enclosed space.
3. WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) POISONING?
- Initial symptoms are similar to the flu without a fever and can include dizziness, severe headaches, nausea, sleepiness, fatigue/weakness and disorientation/confusion.
4. WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) EXPOSURE?
- Common Mild Exposure - Slight headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, flu-like symptoms.
- Common Medium Exposure - Throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, fast heart rate.
- Common Extreme Exposure - Convulsions, unconsciousness, brain damage, heart and lung failure followed by death.
- If you experience even mild CO poisoning symptoms, immediately consult a physician!
5. ARE THERE ANY STEPS I CAN TAKE TO PREVENT CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) POISONING?
- Properly equip your home with carbon monoxide alarms on every level and in sleeping areas. The only safe way to detect CO in your home is with a CO alarm.
- Every year have the heating system, vents, chimney and flue inspected by a qualified technician.
- Regularly examine vents and chimneys for improper connections, visible rust and stains.
- Install and operate appliances according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Only purchase appliances that have been approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
- Never use a gas range/stove to heat the home.
- Never leave your car idling in a closed garage or use fuel-powered appliances or tools in enclosed, attached areas such as garages or porches. Carbon monoxide can seep into your home through vents and doors.
6. DO I NEED A CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) ALARM? WHERE SHOULD IT BE INSTALLED?
- Every home with at least one fuel-burning appliance/heater, attached garage or fireplace should have a CO alarm.
- If the home has only one CO alarm, it should be installed in the main bedroom or in the hallway outside of the sleeping area.
- An alarm should be installed on every level of the home and in sleeping areas.
- Place the alarm at least 15 feet away from fuel-burning appliances.
- Make sure nothing is covering or obstructing the unit.
- Do not place the unit in dead air spaces or next to a window or door.
- Test the CO alarm</> once a month by pressing the test/reset button.
- Every month, unplug the unit and vacuum with a soft-brush attachment or wipe with a clean, dry cloth to remove accumulated dust.
7. SHOULD MY CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) ALARM HAVE A DIGITAL DISPLAY? WHAT DOES THE PEAK LEVEL FUNCTION DO?
- A digital display allows you to see if CO is present and respond before it becomes a dangerous situation.
- Peak Level Memory stores the highest recorded reading prior to being reset. This feature enables you to know if there was a reading while you were away from home, and also can help emergency responders determine the best treatment.
8. WHOM SHOULD I CALL IF MY CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) ALARM GOES OFF?
- If anyone is experiencing symptoms, you need to get everyone into fresh air and call 911 from a neighbor's home.
- If no one is experiencing symptoms, you should call the fire department or a qualified technician from a neighbor's home to have the problem inspected.
- If you are unable to leave the home to call for help, open the doors and windows, and turn off all possible sources while you are waiting for assistance to arrive.
- Under no circumstance should an alarm be ignored!