- What is carbon monoxide (CO) and how is it produced in the home?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is
produced by the incomplete burning of solid, liquid, and gaseous
fuels. Appliances fueled with natural gas, liquified petroleum (LP
gas), oil, kerosene, coal, or wood may produce CO. Burning charcoal
produces CO. Running cars produce CO.
- How many people are unintentionally poisoned by CO?
Every year, over 200 people in the United States die from CO
produced by fuel-burning appliances (furnaces, ranges, water
heaters, room heaters). Others die from CO produced while burning
charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent. Still others die
CO produced by cars left running in attached garages. Several
thousand people go to hospital emergency rooms for treatment for CO
- What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
The initial symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but
without the fever). They include:
- Shortness of breath
Many people with CO poisoning mistake their symptoms for the flu or
are misdiagnosed by physicians, which sometimes results in tragic
- What should you do to prevent CO poisoning?
- Make sure appliances are installed according to manufacturer's
instructions and local building codes. Most appliances should be
installed by professionals. Have the heating system (including
chimneys and vents) inspected and serviced annually. The inspector
should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion,
partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
- Install a CO detector/alarm that meets the requirements of the
current UL standard 2034 or the requirements of the IAS 6-96
standard. A carbon monoxide detector/alarm can provide added
protection, but is no substitute for proper use and upkeep of
appliances that can produce CO. Install a CO detector/alarm in the
hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home. Make sure
the detector cannot be covered up by furniture or draperies.
- Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
- Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home,
garage, vehicle, or tent.
- Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the
garage door open.
- Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge,
skills, and tools. Always refer to the owner's manual when
performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning appliances.
- Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes
dryers for heating your home.
- Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room with
closed doors or windows or in any room where people are sleeping.
- Do not use gasoline-powered tools and engines indoors. If use is
unavoidable, ensure that adequate ventilation is available and
whenever possible place engine unit to exhaust outdoors.
- What CO level is dangerous to your health?
The health effects of CO depend on the level of CO and length of
exposure, as well as each individual's health condition. The
concentration of CO is measured in parts per million (ppm). Health
effects from exposure to CO levels of approximately 1 to 70 ppm are
uncertain, but most people will not experience any symptoms.
heart patients might experience an increase in chest pain. As CO
levels increase and remain above 70 ppm, symptoms may become more
noticeable (headache, fatigue, nausea). As CO levels increase above
150 to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness, and death are
- What should you do if you are experiencing symptoms of CO
If you think you are experiencing any of the symptoms of CO
poisoning, get fresh air immediately. Open windows and doors for
more ventilation, turn off any combustion appliances, and leave the
house. Call your fire department and report your symptoms.
lose consciousness and die if you do nothing. It is also important
to contact a doctor immediately for a proper diagnosis. Tell your
doctor that you suspect CO poisoning is causing your problems.
Prompt medical attention is important if you are experiencing any
symptoms of CO poisoning when you are operating fuel-burning
Before turning your fuel-burning appliances back on,
make sure a qualified serviceperson checks them for malfunction.
- What has changed in CO detectors/alarms recently?
CO detectors/alarms always have been and still are designed to alarm
before potentially life-threatening levels of CO are reached. The UL
standard 2034 (1998 revision) has stricter requirements that the
detector/alarm must meet before it can sound. As a result, the
possibility of nuisance alarms is decreased.
- How should I install a CO Alarm?
CO alarms should be installed according to the manufacturer's
instructions. CPSC recommends that one CO alarm be installed in the
hallway outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area of the
home. CO alarms may be installed into a plug-in receptacle or high
on the wall because CO from any source will be well-mixed with the
air in the house. Make sure furniture or draperies cannot cover up
- What should you do when the CO detector/alarm sounds?
Never ignore an alarming CO detector/alarm. If the detector/alarm
sounds: Operate the reset button. Call your emergency services (fire
department or 911). Immediately move to fresh air -- outdoors or by
an open door/window.
- How should a consumer test a CO detector/alarm to make sure it is
Consumers should follow the manufacturer's instructions. Using a
test button, some detectors/alarms test whether the circuitry as
well as the sensor which senses CO is working, while the test button
on other detectors only tests whether the circuitry is working.
those units which test the circuitry only, some manufacturers sell
separate test kits to help the consumer test the CO sensor inside
- What is the role of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
in preventing CO poisoning?
CPSC worked closely with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to help
develop the safety standard (UL 2034) for CO detectors/alarms.
helps promote carbon monoxide safety awareness to raise awareness of
CO hazards and the need for regular maintenance of fuel-burning
CPSC recommends that every home have a CO detector/alarm
that meets the requirements of the most recent UL standard 2034 or
the IAS 6-96 standard in the hallway near every separate sleeping
CPSC also works with industry to develop voluntary and
mandatory standards for fuel-burning appliances.
- Do some cities require that CO detectors/alarms be installed?
On September 15, 1993, Chicago, Illinois became one of the first
cities in the nation to adopt an ordinance requiring, effective
October 1, 1994, the installation of CO detectors/alarms in all new
single-family homes and in existing single-family residences that
have new oil or gas furnaces. Several other cities also require CO
detectors/alarms in apartment buildings and single-family dwellings.
- Should CO detectors/alarms be used in motor homes and other
CO detectors/alarms are available for boats and recreational
vehicles and should be used. The Recreation Vehicle Industry
Association requires CO detectors/alarms in motor homes and in
towable recreational vehicles that have a generator or are prepped
for a generator.
For your convenience, we have prepared a
list of search terms used in order of popularity, to find more pages
on this subject:
Searches completed in January 2005
Count Search Term
21077 carbon monoxide
11731 carbon monoxide poisoning
9280 carbon detector monoxide
3086 carbon monoxide poisioning symptom
1296 alarm carbon monoxide
1078 carbon monoxide symptom
1040 carbon detector monoxide nighthawk
1027 carbon monoxide poisioning
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© Anthony George 2005