What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a normal byproduct of fuel combustion, but high levels of it indoors can be dangerous to your health. Typical heating fuels (oil, coal, wood, gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel, or natural gas) can create carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide can build up to dangerous levels if a fuel-burning appliance isn't operating properly or isn't safely venting fuel combustion by-products.


How Can Carbon Monoxide be Dangerous?

Carbon monoxide has no odor, no color and no taste. Because it combines with the body's blood and prevents it from absorbing oxygen, carbon monoxide can cause serious illness and, in extreme cases, can be fatal.


Identifying High Levels of Carbon Monoxide

Environmental Indicators:

  • Extremely stuffy, stale air
  • Water condensation dripping on the inside of windows

Symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Coughing
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Spots before the eyes
  • Reddened skin color

If you notice any of these warning signs, get outside to fresh air and get to the doctor immediately.

Install a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm near your sleeping area. We recommend the alarm be marked with “UL 2034” indicating that it meets the standards set by Underwriter's Laboratories, Inc. (UL).


How Can I Prevent Carbon Monoxide Problems?

  • Have your chimney, heating system and water heater flue vent piping inspected regularly and cleaned by a professional when necessary.
  • High efficiency furnaces, water heaters and other energy-saving appliances may have exhaust vents that exit your building through an exterior wall rather than through a chimney. Ensure that all obstructions and debris are removed from your venting systems.
  • Recent conversion to clean-burning natural gas — be sure to have your chimney professionally cleaned right away to remove the soot and creosote build-up from oil combustion. Install one or more CO alarms near bedrooms.
  • Be sure the alarm is certified according to the "UL 2034" standard. If the alarm sounds, get out of the building immediately and call 911.
  • NEVER burn wood or coal in an indoor area without proper venting. Portable gas and charcoal grills intended for outside use should never be used indoors or inside an open garage.
  • NEVER use your gas range to heat your apartment or house. Your range's oven and top burners are designed to cook your food, NOT to heat your home. Prolonged use can reduce oxygen levels in the home and contribute to unusually excessive levels of carbon monoxide.
  • NEVER keep your vehicle running inside a closed space/garage or in an unventilated area. This is the most common carbon monoxide danger to homeowners.

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