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"Understanding the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide: What You Need to Know"

pile of split logs

Carbon Monoxide is also known as the “invisible killer” because it is a colorless, odorless, and toxic gas. Because of the physical properties of this gas, it is extremely dangerous to those who are exposed. Breathing in CO at high levels can be fatal; hundreds of people are killed by exposure every year, while thousands are hospitalized. You might be wondering, “If it’s colorless and odorless, how do I know if I’m in danger?” The first step is knowing how and where you might be exposed.

Where might I be exposed to Carbon Monoxide?

Gas burning appliances such as gas cooking stoves are common in homes all across the United States, and many homes are heated by the use of natural gas. Both of these appliances can lead to fumes including CO if they are not maintained properly.


Running vehicles in garages and other enclosed spaces is a common practice in winter so people can warm it up before they leave their house. While this is typically a safe practice, if a car is started in a closed garage, the fumes can accumulate and lead to potentially fatal levels of CO.


Fireplaces, whether they use wood or gas logs, can be a potential source of CO in the home if they are not maintained properly. Be sure to properly clean and maintain your chimney and fireplace to keep this from happening.

How can I prevent being exposed to Carbon Monoxide?

Knowing where you can be exposed is a good place to start, but how can you prevent being exposed?

  • Have at least one CO detector in your home. Be sure to change the batteries in it every six months, and it if is hard-wired to your home’s electricity, make sure it has a battery backup system.

  • Service and maintain your gas-burning appliances based on manufacturer’s recommendations.

  • NEVER use a gas cooking stove to heat your home. This could fill your home with CO.

  • NEVER heat up a vehicle in an enclosed garage, always have a door open for adequate ventilation.

  • NEVER heat up a vehicle near an open window or door that leads to an enclosed area in your home.

  • Ensure fireplaces are cleaned at least annually and ensure the fireplace damper is open before lighting a fire.

  • If CO exposure/poisoning is suspected, call a health care professional immediately.

What are the signs and symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

You think you may have been exposed to CO, but you aren’t sure. What signs or symptoms should you be aware of?

  • Headache, dizziness, confusion

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fatigue, loss of consciousness

  • Nausea, vomiting

If you think you or someone around you is experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, move to fresh air immediately and contact a healthcare professional. Staying in an area where carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected can lead to severe injury and in some cases, death. Carbon monoxide can be an extremely hazardous gas, but when the proper precautions are taken, you can protect yourself and those around you from the hazards associated with it!




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