Fire Department

Facts about Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, invisible, poisonous gas. It is a product of incomplete combustion of various fuels such as: gasoline, oil, nature gas, propane, coal, and wood. Home heating and cooking appliances can produce CO if used improperly. Any vehicle or power equipment with an internal combustion engine also produces CO. Additional sources of CO are wood-burning stoves, cooking grills, and fireplaces.

Carbon Monoxide has approximately the same density (weight) as air and mixes throughout a home. Higher concentrations can be found at the source of CO but will dissipate across a room at an even level.

 Because CO is odorless and invisible, you may not know that you are being exposed. The initial symptoms to low levels of CO are similar to the flu and/or the common cold but without a fever.

Symptoms to low level exposure include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and Dizziness

Symptoms of higher levels of CO exposure include:

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death

The severity of symptoms will depend on the amount of CO and time exposed. Slower exposures to lower levels can often be mistaken for the flu. This type of exposure can occur if there is a small leak in the furnace flue. Rapid exposures to higher levels are more often unmistakable with victims becoming confused and loss of consciousness. These types of exposure are more likely associated with the use of power generators inside a residence.

Clues You Can See:

  • Vehicle running in a garage
  • Rusting or water streaking on vent/chimney
  • Loose or missing furnace panel
  • Sooting on appliances
  • Loose or disconnected vent/chimney connections
  • Debris or soot falling from chimney, fireplace or appliance
  • Loose masonry on chimney
  • Moisture inside of windows or on walls of furnace room

Clues You Cannot See:

  • Internal appliance damage or malfunctioning components
  • Improper burning adjustments
  • Hidden blockage or damage in chimneys

"What Can You Do?

  • Install a UL listed Carbon Monoxide detector on every level of your home
  • Test the CO detector monthly
  • Replace the CO detector every 2 to 5 years
  • Never run a vehicle or power equipment in a garage or indoors
  • Never use portable fuel-burning space heaters inside a home or garage unless it is specifically designed for indoor use
  • Have chimneys, fire places, wood stove, hot water tank, and all home heating and cooking appliances professionally inspected and repaired yearly
  • Inspect chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and / or complete disconnection, and loose connections.

What You Should Not Do?

  • Never leave a vehicle running in the garage
  • Never attempt do-it-yourself repairs on your appliances
  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating
  • Never burn charcoal indoors or in a garage