Carbon monoxide poisonings are higher during winter months. It is important to have a working carbon monoxide detector If you heat home or have appliances that use natural gas or some type of fossil fuel.

  • Carbon monoxide (CO) doesn’t smell, doesn’t taste, is invisible, and is soundless
  • The CDC reports 20,000 visits to Emergency Rooms and more than 400 deaths annually from Carbon monoxide poisoning in the U.S.

Protecting against Carbon Monoxide is something you can do to make this winter safe, comfortable and healthy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, During 1999–2010, a total of 5,149 deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning occurred in the United States. Statistically, the elderly and children are at a higher risk.

Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, and toxic gas which can cause sudden illness and death. Carbon monoxide is produced any time fuel-gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO can kill you before you are aware it is in your home. Make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are working properly and replace old batteries.

Exposure to Carbon Monoxide

Most carbon monoxide exposures occur in winter and the most common source of CO poisoning is unvented fuel-burning space heaters. Another time they occur is during and right after a natural disaster/storms when the electricity goes out, because people turn on gas heating elements or chimneys to eat or keep warm.

CO sources may include;

  • Unvented kerosene and gas space heaters
  • Leaking chimneys and furnaces
  • Back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces
  • Gas stoves
  • Generators and other gasoline powered equipment
  • Automobile exhaust from attached garages
  • Tobacco smoke

Health Effects Associated with Carbon Monoxide:

Carbon monoxide attaches to red blood cells where oxygen would usually attach. The brain and other organs are essentially suffocated. Each year in the United States, approximately 20,000 people go to the emergency room for carbon monoxide poisoning.

CO poisoning symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Angina
  • Impaired vision and coordination
  • Reduced brain function
  • Headaches, dizziness, Nausea, and Flu-like symptoms
  • Fatal at high concentrations

Reduce exposure to Carbon Monoxide:

  • Check/Test you carbon monoxide detectors for proper operation
  • Install a battery-operated or battery-backup carbon monoxide detector in your home or apartment, and check the batteries regularly.
  • If you cook on a gas range, use the exhaust fan on your stove hood.
  • Make sure to get an annual furnace service to ensure the safety and efficiency of your home heating system
  • Open flues when fireplaces are in use.
  • Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all wood stoves fit tightly.
  • Do not idle engines in an enclosed space (truck, car, power equipment inside a garage)
  • If you have a power vent, make sure nothing is obstructing the exhaust (Snow)
  • Make sure in older buildings that are not legally required to have CO detectors that you or the building manager has them installed.
  • Never use a portable fuel generator inside the home or in an enclosed area.
  • Keep gas-type combustion engines, charcoal or space heaters at least 20 feet from individuals.


The American Association of Poison Control Centers

Centers for Disease Control :

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Pollution in Outdoor Air | US EPA

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