The facts about carbon monoide and staying safe


Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless and odorless gas known as the silent killer.  According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, CO poisoning is the number one cause of accidental poisoning in the United States.  Diagnosis of CO poisoning can be difficult because symptoms mimic those of many other illnesses and include nausea, headaches, dizziness, weakness, chest pain and vomiting.

In more severe poisoning cases, people may experience disorientation or unconsciousness, or suffer long-term neurological disabilities, cardiorespiratory failure or death.  Regardless of a home’s age, people can be exposed to this poisonous gas, which originates from anything that burns fuel, such as gas furnaces, stoves, water heaters, barbeque grills, wood-burning fireplaces and automobiles.

CO Risks and Fatalities

  • CO poisoning is responsible for an average of 450 deaths and more than 20,000 emergency room visits in the U.S. each year. (American Medical Association)
  • Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of CO exposure is in the home, and more than two-fifths (41 percent) occurs during the winter months of December, January and February. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Ninety percent of American homes do not meet the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) recommendation for number of CO alarms, including 40 percent that report having zero working carbon monoxide alarms. (First Alert “Get Alarmed” Survey, July 2010)


Avoiding CO Poisoning


  • All fuel-burning (gas, oil and coal) devices should be serviced by a qualified technician every year. Generators, charcoal grills, camp stoves and other similar devices should only be used outdoors.
  • Running vehicles inside an attached garage, even if the door is open, is hazardous, as CO can leak into the home.
  • CO alarms should be installed outside each sleeping area (such as in a hallway outside the bedroom). For maximum protection, an alarm should be installed on each level of the home. Battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in alarms with battery backup are preferred in case of power failure.
  • Call 911 and leave the home immediately if the CO alarm sounds.


Additional CO Alarm Guidelines


  • Clear CO alarms of all of dust and debris.
  • Ensure that alarms are plugged all the way into the outlet or, if battery operated, have working batteries installed. Check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
  • Make certain each person can hear the CO alarm sound from his or her sleeping room and that the sound is loud enough to awaken everyone.
  • Make sure the alarms are installed at least 15 feet away from sources of CO to reduce the number of nuisance alarms.


CO Alarm Legislation


  • Numerous states have passed legislation requiring CO alarms in residential homes and other types of dwellings. Included are Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
  • Many major U.S. cities – including Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia and St. Louis – also have municipal CO codes.



To learn more about protecting your family from CO poisoning, visit



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