Carbon Monoxide


According to the Environmental Protection Agency, carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste, or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware 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 exposure.

CO can be produced by any natural or fossil fuel source. This can include, but is not limited to, gas space heaters; leaking chimneys, furnaces, and wood stoves; gas water heaters; gas stoves; gasoline powered equipment and automobiles; and tobacco smoke.

There are ways to protect your family from CO poisoning. Make sure all gas appliances are in good working condition. You may want to have someone from the gas company come out and inspect your gas lines for leaks. Keep your chimneys clear of debris and make sure your furnace is in good working order. Keep the door between the home and an attached garage closed.

Perhaps the easiest thing to do to protect your family is to install a CO alarm. Similar to smoke alarms, CO alarms detect the presence of CO in the air and make a noise to alert residents when the gas level approaches harmful levels. Beginning July 1, 2011, the state of California will require all "single-family homes with an attached garage or fossil fuel source to install carbon monoxide alarms...multi-family leased or rental dwellings, such as apartment buildings, have until January 1, 2013."

If you suspect CO poisoning has occurred, call 9-1-1. Ventilate area, turn off potentially problematic appliances, and leave the house. Do not re-enter the building until you are cleared to do so by emergency personnel. Make sure the paramedics and later, the physicians, know you suspect CO poisoning.