Carbon monoxide (sometimes referred to as CO) is an invisible, odorless, tasteless, gas that is produced whenever fuel is burned. It’s found in fumes produced by fuel-burning devices such as vehicles, stoves, grills, fireplaces, gas hot water heaters, and furnaces. In high enough concentrations (above 35 ppm) it’s toxic to human beings. If you breathe in a lot of it, you can pass out or even die.

Everyday Sources of Carbon Monoxide

In outdoor areas, carbon monoxide usually isn’t a health hazard because there’s plenty of area for it to dissipate harmlessly. Inside enclosed spaces like your home, garage, or RV, it’s quite easy for toxic levels to build up silently and without warning.

To avoid potential carbon monoxide poisoning, become knowledgeable of potential sources:

  • Have all gas, oil, or coal burning appliances, such as a hot water heaters or furnaces, serviced by qualified technicians. A malfunctioning or improperly vented appliance can leak carbon monoxide.
  • Make sure your chimney is clear. A blocked chimney can cause carbon monoxide to build up inside your home.
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove or grill inside. Even using one in a garage can leak carbon monoxide into the house.
  • Never use a gas oven for heating.
  • Don’t run a generator inside your home, basement, or garage. A study by The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) found that a gas powered generator placed 15 feet from a house can still be close enough to cause dangerous CO levels inside.
  • Don’t leave a vehicle running in the garage. Vehicle exhaust includes carbon monoxide that can accumulate in the vehicle, the garage, and also leak into your home.
  • Never allow children to ride in the back of an enclosed pickup truck.

Did you know that more than 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year?

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The most dangerous thing about carbon monoxide poisoning is its insidious nature; people who are sleeping can die from carbon monoxide poisoning before experiencing symptoms. More than 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year and more than 4,000 are hospitalized. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning often mimic the flu. Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty walking

Continued exposure can lead to unconsciousness and eventually death. Carbon monoxide is often referred to as “the silent killer” because the symptoms can sneak up on you.

Carbon Monoxide Detection

The best defense against carbon monoxide poisoning is to use carbon monoxide detectors.  Every home with a fireplace, attached garage, or a fuel burning appliance such as an oil or gas furnace or hot water heater, should have at least one. Install the detector at least 15 feet away from the fuel-burning appliance. A hallway just outside bedroom area is an ideal location. In a multi-story home, place a detector on each level.

Carbon monoxide detectors are about the same size as smoke detectors. Some models include a digital display that shows the highest carbon monoxide level detected. Monitors like these are often part of an overall home safety and security plan. If you’re interested in learning about options for monitored home security, get a free quote from Protect America. We’d love to help you protect your family.