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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Know the symptoms and how to reduce the risk.

Carbon Monoxide Can Be Deadly

Your heating system can produce carbon monoxide (CO) if it is not working properly or is inadequately vented, whether you heat your home with natural gas, oil, propane, coal or wood. 

Carbon monoxide is also produced from internal combustion devices such as cars and small gasoline engines.

Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and tasteless but very toxic.

Signs indicating the presence of carbon monoxide in the home include:

  • Stuffy, stale or smelly air
  • Very high humidity
  • Soot coming from a fireplace or heating system

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often confused with those of the flu and the highest incidence of poisoning occurs during the heating and flu seasons.

Symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, unclear thinking, shortness of breath, weakness, vision problems and loss of muscle control.

High concentrations of carbon monoxide can lead to unconsciousness, brain damage or death.

However, victims may experience only one or a few – if any – of these symptoms. You should suspect the presence of carbon monoxide if symptoms tend to disappear when you leave the building.

If You Suspect Carbon Monoxide

Alert your family, employees or workers and exit the area immediately. Open the windows and doors on your way out, if you are able to do so.

If carbon monoxide is detected by your alarm, exit the area immediately and call 911 to notify your local fire department.

Reduce The Risk Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

You should “tune up” your heating system each year by using a licensed heating contractor or fuel supplier – preferably before the heating season begins – to ensure it is in good working order.

Carbon monoxide detectors should also be installed on every floor near sleeping areas of your home and checked regularly for proper functioning.

Your chimney or vent pipes should also be checked each year for blockages. A professional chimney sweep should be contacted immediately if you find any problems.

Similarly, make sure your home is adequately ventilated, especially if you have recently insulated or renovated your home or enclosed your heating system.

Always make sure to clear any snow, ice or debris that accumulates around vents, gas meters, regulator vents and any other outdoor piping.