What is carbon monoxide and how is it produced?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless poisonous gas that is produced when burning any fuel, such as propane, natural gas, oil and wood.  It becomes dangerous when there is incomplete combustion, improper installation and improper ventilation for fires and fuel burning appliances such as, but not limited to, gas stoves, water heaters, oil tanks, generators, gas-fueled engine motors, wood burning stoves, fireplaces, gas clothes dryers and kerosene heaters.

Each year over 400 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room and over 4,000 people are hospitalized due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Because the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic those of the flu, the number of cases could be higher yet are misdiagnosed as flu.

What are some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Initial symptoms are similar to the flu with no fever. That is why CO poisoning is often misdiagnosed and underreported. Victims can experience dizziness, headaches, nausea, sleepiness, weakness and fatigue, and disorientation and confusion. If you experience these symptoms in your home, and they disappear once you leave your home but come back upon reentering the home, you should seek immediate medical attention. High levels of carbon monoxide inhalation can cause hemorrhaging, seizures, convulsions, respiratory arrest, loss of consciousness and death.

What can I do to prevent CO poisoning?
Equip your home with carbon monoxide detectors on every level and in sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide detectors can cost between $20 and $50 depending on the model.

Travel with a CO detector. Many hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, dormitories and other lodging establishments are not required to have CO detectors. CO detectors easily go through airport security if you take the batteries out.

Every year, have your heating systems, vents, chimney and flue inspected and cleaned by a qualified technician.

Never use your gas stove/oven to heat your home.

Do not use a generator or other fuel-powered appliance, charcoal grill or camp stove in your home, garage, basement, or near a window. Carbon monoxide is an opportunistic gas and can seep into your home through vents and doors – even a door that is only cracked open to let the power cord through!

Spread the word. Tell your friends and loved ones to purchase carbon monoxide detectors for their homes. Give CO detectors as gifts – it might save someone’s life.

Do I need a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm?

Yes. Everyone should have a CO alarm in their house or apartment.

Check your local and state laws regarding carbon monoxide detectors. They will outline the requirements for CO detectors in homes, rentals, businesses, and other buildings. Check http://www.knowaboutco.com/state_news.html to read the law in your state. If your state is not listed, it may not yet have a carbon monoxide law in effect.

If you or your child is attending college, university or a private institution away from home, make sure he/she takes a carbon monoxide detector to install in their dorm room or in off-campus housing. Many schools do not have CO detectors in their dormitories..

If you are traveling and staying in a hotel, motel, Bed and breakfast or other lodging establishment, call ahead to make sure they have CO detectors – many lodging establishments are not required to have CO detectors. If you have rented a home or apartment even for a short vacation stay , bring a CO detector or call ahead to make sure the lodging has a CO detector. To be safe, however, it is best that you also travel with your own CO detector!

I need a CO alarm. Where do I put it?
Install an alarm on every level of your home and in all sleeping areas.

Place the alarm at least 15 feet away from any fuel-burning appliances.

Maintain your CO alarm by testing it and cleaning it monthly. Gently vacuum with a soft brush or wipe it down with a clean, dry cloth to remove any dust that may have accumulated.  Replace batteries yearly.

What should I do if my CO alarm goes off?
First, never ignore your CO alarm!

If your alarm goes off, leave the house and call 911.

If you are unable to leave your home, call 911 immediately. Open all windows and doors, and turn off all possible sources of CO while you are waiting for help to arrive. 

Where can I find out more?
Check out http://www.cdc.gov/co/ or www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/466.html for more information on the dangers of carbon monoxide.




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