Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Exposing a invisible killer: the dangers of carbon monoxide
Each year in America, unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning
claims more than 500 lives and sends another 15,000 people to
hospital emergency rooms for treatment.
Understanding the Risk
- What is carbon Monoxide (CO)? Carbon
monoxide is an odorless, colorless, and toxic gas. Because it is
impossible to see, taste, or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill
you before you are aware that it is in your home. At lower
levels of exposure, CO causes mild effects that are often
mistaken for the flu. These symptoms include headaches,
dizziness, disorientation, nausea, and fatigue. The effects of
CO exposure can vary greatly from person to person depending on
age, overall health, and the concentration and length of
- Where does carbon monoxide come from? CO
gas can come from several sources: gas fire appliances, charcoal
and gas grills, wood burning furnaces or fireplaces, and motor
vehicles. Anything that burns fuel creates CO. Usually the CO is
either outside, vented to the atmosphere, goes up a chimney, or
outside through a range hood or fan.
- Who is at risk? Everyone is at risk of CO poisoning. Medical
experts believe that unborn babies, infants, children, senior
citizens, and people with heart or lung problems are at an even
greater risk for CO poioning.
What actions do I take if my carbon
monoxide detector goes off?
- If no one is feeling ill:
- Silence the alarm.
- Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (i.e.
gas furnace, fireplace, gas dryer, hot water heater, etc.)
- Call the Fire Department (911) to investigate the source
of the possible CO buildup.
- If illness is a factor:
- Evacuate all occupants immediately.
- Determine how many occupants are ill and determine their
- Call the Fire Department (911) and when relaying
information to the dispatcher, include the number of people
- Do not re-enter the home without the approval of a Fire
Protect yourself and your family from CO
Install at least one UL (Underwriters Laboratories) listed carbon
monoxide alarm with an audible warning signal near the sleeping
areas and outside individual bedrooms. Carbon monoxide alarms
measure levels of CO over time and are designed to sound an alarm
before an average, healthy adult would experience symptoms. It is
very possible that you may not be experiencing symptoms when you hear
the alarm. This does not mean that no CO is present.
Have a qualified professional check all fuel burning appliances,
furnaces, venting, and chimney systems at least once a year.
Never use your range or oven to help heat your home and never use
a charcoal grill or hibachi in your home or garage.
Never keep a car running in the garage. Even if the garage doors
are open, normal circulation will not provide enough fresh air to
reliably prevent a dangerous buildup of CO.
When purchasing an existing home, have a qualified technician
evaluate the integrity of the heating and cooking systems, as well
as the sealed spaces between the garage and house. The presence of a
carbon monoxide alarm in your home can save your life in the event
of a CO buildup.
While The Wickliffe Fire Department does not endorse any
particular brand of CO detector, we do recommend purchasing one that
plugs into the wall and has a digital readout, if possible.