Why should I be concerned about carbon monoxide in my home?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a tasteless, odorless gas that can be deadly. It is produced by burning any fuel. Your home may contain one or more appliances that produce CO. These include: oil or gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas or propane barbeques, gas space heaters, gas ranges and ovens, fireplaces, and wood-burning stoves. Vehicles also produce carbon monoxide.
How do I know if there is carbon monoxide in my home?
Carbon monoxide can be present if fuel-burning appliances are not well ventilated or are not functioning properly. In California, more than half of CO-related deaths result from appliances that are not working or ventilated properly.Because it is odorless and tasteless, CO can be present along with other gases and you may not know it is there. For example, CO can be present when but you may only smell the smoke.
The presence of CO may cause a variety of symptoms because CO impairs your blood's ability to carry oxygen to your brain and heart. Oxygen deprivation causes sleepiness, fatigue, and other problems. At low to moderate levels of exposure, CO can cause shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, or nausea. Long-term or high dose exposure can be deadly. Seniors, pregnant women, and people with cardiac or respiratory conditions are most vulnerable to CO poisoning.
How do I know if my symptoms are from CO poisoning and not the flu or food-poisoning?
If you experience the symptoms described above, turn off appliances, open all the doors and windows and leave the house immediately to get fresh air. If your symptoms go away, carbon monoxide may have been the cause.
How do I prevent CO poisoning?
CO poisoning can be prevented by adhering to the following guidelines.
- Inspection: Every fall, have your fuel-burning or gas appliances inspected by a qualified professional.
- Ventilation: Do not idle your car in the garage. Do not use your gas stove or oven to heat your home. Chooseappliances that vent fumes outdoors. If you have an appliance that does not vent to the outdoors, carefully follow the instructions that come with the appliance, use the appropriate fuel at all times, and crack or open doors or windows to create some ventilation.
- Maintenance: Make sure that flues, chimneys, stovepipes, and vents are in good condition and are not blocked. Keep all fuel-burning or gas appliances in working order.
- Detection: Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector, or replacing a smoke detector with a device that detects both smoke and CO. If the device is not hard-wired, make sure to replace the battery on a regular schedule.
Should I buy a CO detector?
CO detectors should not replace proper use and maintenance of your appliances. Only purchase detectors certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). These sound an alarm when dangerous CO levels are detected, which is important if you and others in your household are asleep. If there are small children, seniors, or people with respiratory, circulatory, or cardiac problems in your home, you may want to purchase a detector that has warning signs or digital readouts for CO even at low levels. Carefully follow the instructions to ensure correct use, placement and maintenance of your CO detector.
Where can I go to learn more?
The Environmental Protection Agency's website on carbon monoxide and indoor air pollution
Questions and Answers about CO from the Consumer Product Safety Commission
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet on carbon monoxide
California Air Resources Board website on indoor air pollution