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Carbon Monoxide (CO) Safety

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a gas. It has no odor. CO gas is poisonous.

It can make a person feel sick and can be deadly. In the home, heating

and cooking devices that burn fuel can be sources of carbon monoxide.

Although the popularity of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms has been growing

in recent years, it cannot be assumed that everyone is familiar with the hazards 

of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.

Often called the invisible killer, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels 

(such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. 

In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide.

Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels 

of carbon monoxide.

Facts and Figures

The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including

the victim's health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people

with physical conditions that limit their body's ability to use oxygen

(i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower

concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.

A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time 

or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.

In 2010, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 80,100 non-fire CO incidents 

in which carbon monoxide was found, or an average of nine such calls per hour. 

The number of incidents increased 96 percent from 40,900 incidents reported in 2003. 

This increase is most likely due to the increased use of CO detectors, 

which alert people to the presence of CO.

If you have Pets in the home, remember they are smaller than you,

which means they will be affected more quickly.

Move them to fresh air, perform Pet CPR (for cats and dogs).

Take them to your veterinarian immediately!

Call your vet's office to let them know you are on the way.

Monoxide Safety FACT!

CO is called the invisible killer because the gas cannot be seen or smelled. 

Take action to stay safe from CO poisoning.


• CO alarms should be installed outside each sleeping area.

Install alarms on every level of the home.

It is best to use interconnected alarms.

When one sounds, all CO alarms in the home sound.

• Follow the instructions on the package to properly install the CO alarm.

• Test CO alarms at least once a month.

• Replace CO alarms according to the instructions on the package.

• Know the sounds the CO alarm makes.

It will sound if CO is detected. 

It will make a different sound if the battery is low or if it is time to get a new CO alarm.

• If the battery is low, replace it.

• If the CO alarm sounds, you must get fresh air.

Move outdoors, by an open window or near an open door.

Make sure everyone in the home gets to fresh air.

Call the fire department from a fresh air location.

Stay there until help arrives.


• When warming a vehicle, move it out of the garage.

Do not run a fueled engine indoors, even if garage doors are open.

Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not blocked.

Clear snow away.

• During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer,

furnace, stove and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.

• Clear all debris from dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace vents.

• A generator should be used outdoors. Use in a well-ventilated

location away from windows, doors, and vent openings.

• Gas or charcoal grills can produce CO. Only use them outside.

• Have heating equipment and chimneys inspected by a professional

every year before cold weather occurs.

• Open the damper when using a fireplace for adequate ventilation.

• Never use your oven or stove to heat your home.

Symptoms of CO poisoning

CO enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused

with flu-like symptoms, food poisoning and other illnesses.

Some symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness,

light headedness or headaches. 

High levels of CO can be fatal, causing death within minutes. 

The concentration of CO, measured in parts per million (ppm) is a determining factor 

in the symptoms for an average, healthy adult.

  • 50 ppm: No adverse effects with 8 hours of exposure.
  • 200 ppm: Mild headache after 2-3 hours of exposure.
  • 400 ppm: Headache and nausea after 1-2 hours of exposure.
  • 800 ppm: Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 45 minutes;
  • collapse and unconsciousness after 1 hour of exposure.
  • 1,000 ppm: Loss of consciousness after 1 hour of exposure.
  • 1,600 ppm: Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 20 minutes
  • of exposure.
  • 3,200 ppm: Headache, nausea, and dizziness after 5-10 minutes; 
    collapse and unconsciousness after 30 minutes of exposure.
  • 6,400 ppm: Headache and dizziness after 1-2 minutes;
    unconsciousness and danger of death after 10-15 minutes of exposure.
  • 12,800 ppm: Immediate physiological effects, unconsciousness and danger of death 
    after 1-3 minutes of exposure.

If you suspect someone has been exposed to CO poisoning

Get the person to fresh air and Call 9-1-1.

Be prepared to give either Rescue Breathing 

(if the person is unconscious and having breathing difficulties, yet still has a pulse) 

or CPR (if the person is unconscious, is not breathing and has no pulse.) 

 Continue until Rescue arrives on scene and takes over.

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