Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, highly toxic gas produced when fuels such as gasoline, fuel oil, propane, kerosene, natural gas, coal and wood do not have an adequate oxygen supply to properly burn. CO could be posing a deadly threat to you and your family. If you suspect CO in your home, leave and call 911 immediately.

Preventing exposure

If you suspect CO in your home, leave the house immediately and call 911 or the Poison Control Center.

  • Install a UL-listed CO detector according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Have regular maintenance and inspections performed on all fuel-burning household appliances and equipment.
  • Never leave a vehicle running in a garage.
  • Never bring a burning charcoal grill indoors.
  • Keep your vehicle’s tail pipe clear of snow and other obstructions.
  • Do not use a gas oven to heat your home.
  • If using a gas range, operate the range hood that vents outdoors.
  • Do not sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
  • Do not use gas engines (generators, lawn mowers, snow throwers, etc.) in enclosed spaces.
  • Never bring internal combustion engine driven equipment, such as generators, inside a home or enclosure.

Symptoms of CO poisoning

Although the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning can be subtle, the condition is a life-threatening medical emergency. Get immediate care for anyone who may have carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:

  • Dull headache, the most common early symptom
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Impaired judgment
  • Loss of consciousness

If you or someone may have been exposed to carbon monoxide, get fresh air immediately and call 911 or seek emergency medical care. If possible, open windows and doors on the way out of the house. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be especially dangerous for older adults and children.

CO-producing appliances fueled by wood or gas

  • Fuel-burning space heaters
  • Furnaces
  • Charcoal grills
  • Cooking ranges
  • Water heaters
  • Fireplaces
  • Portable generators, including those often used on houseboats
  • Wood-burning stoves
  • Car and truck engines

Typically, the amount of carbon monoxide produced by these sources is not cause for concern. But if appliances are not kept in good working order or if they are used in a closed or partially closed space — such as using a charcoal grill indoors or running a car in a closed garage — the carbon monoxide can build to dangerous levels. Even swimming behind a motorboat or riding in the back of an enclosed pickup truck can be dangerous.

Source: Mayo Clinic

About CO detectors

CO detectors are required in all Wisconsin residences. Similar to smoke detectors, CO detectors provide an early alert to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Any American Gas Association and UL-approved models meet the standard for a good detector. Follow installation directions and keep instructions for later reference.