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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Americans spend approximately 90 percent of their lives indoors, where hazardous air pollutants can exist at higher levels than outdoors

Children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with lung disease are particularly at high risk for adverse health effects caused by indoor air pollution, including carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced as a result of incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels, such as propane, natural gas, fuel oil and wood.

Breathing low levels of carbon monoxide can cause fatigue and increase chest pain in people with chronic heart disease. Breathing higher levels of carbon monoxide causes flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness and weakness in healthy people.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, confusion and disorientation. At very high levels, it causes loss of consciousness and death. Nearly 300 people a year die from carbon monoxide poisioning.

Any fuel-burning appliance that is not adequately vented and maintained can be a potential source of carbon monoxide poisoning, including furnaces, ranges, ovens, water heaters, clothes dryers, fireplaces, space heaters, coal and wood burning stoves, charcoal grills, automobile exhaust, camp stoves and gas-powered small engines. Cigarette smoke also contains carbon monoxide in high levels along with other toxic gases.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisioning:

  • Make sure fossil fuel-burning appliances are installed and working according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Have only a qualified technician install or convert fuel-burning equipment.
  • Have your exhaust pipe or chimney and flue inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do not use ovens or ranges to heat your home.
  • Do not burn charcoal inside a home, cabin, recreational vehicle, camper or tent.
  • Do not operate gasoline or diesel engines in confined areas such as garages or basements.
  • Make sure your furnace has adequate intake of outside air.
  • Choose vented appliances.
  • Use kerosene space heaters and unvented gas heaters only in well-ventilated rooms.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector with audible alarm in your home and garage.
  • Of course, the best solution to eliminate the chance of carbon monoxide poisoning is to use only electric appliances and heaters.
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