The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Your Home

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Your Home

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If you have a home heating unit and/or appliances that use natural gas, there is always the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning in case of a leak or if a burner on your stove wasn’t shut off properly.

Accidental CO poisoning kills at least 420 people and sends more than 100,000 Americans to emergency rooms every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CO can leak from anything in your home that uses natural gas, including:

  • A furnace or heater
  • Your water heater
  • A gas range
  • Your clothes dryer.

However, CO poisoning can also be caused by things and activities that release CO, such as:

  • Kerosene heaters
  • Vehicles “warmed up” in garages
  • Burning charcoal and wood.

CO from the above sources can build up in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, potentially poisoning people and pets that are in the space.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Signs

While CO is odorless, utilities add a chemical to it that gives it an odor similar to rotten eggs to alert homeowners of a problem.

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The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. People who are sleeping or who have been drinking alcohol can die from CO poisoning before ever having symptoms.

If you experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning:

  • Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
  • Go to an emergency room and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning. If CO poisoning has occurred, it can often be diagnosed by a blood test done soon after exposure.


One of the best ways to prevent CO poisoning is to install a CO Alarm on every level of your home and outside of every bathroom, according to the CDC. It also recommends:

  • Choosing alarms with the label of a nationally recognized testing lab, such as Underwriters Laboratory.
  • Verifying that everyone in the house knows the difference between the warning sounds of CO alarms and smoke alarms.
  • Testing such alarms monthly by pressing the “test” button.
  • Replacing CO alarm batteries on an annual basis.

If the CO Alarm sounds, go outside and call 911 since emergency responders are trained to deal with this situation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides further tips:

  • Have your fuel-burning appliances — including oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves — inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season. Make certain that the flues and chimneys are connected, in good condition and not blocked.
  • Don’t idle the car in a garage, even if the garage door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up very quickly in the garage and living area of your home.
  • Don’t use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
  • Never use a charcoal grill indoors — even in a fireplace.
  • Don’t sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
  • Don’t use any gasoline-powered engines (mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines or generators) in enclosed spaces.

Choose appliances that vent their fumes to the outside whenever possible, have them properly installed, and maintain them according to manufacturers’ instructions.

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