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Carbon Monoxide Q&A

Carbon monoxide warning

Most of us know that Carbon Monoxide (CO) is bad – but how much do you really know about CO? Here are some carbon monoxide basics to help keep you safe at home.

1. What is carbon monoxide? – Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas that is a byproduct of burning heating oil, wood, propane, or any other fuel. In excess, a buildup of CO in your home can cause illness, unconsciousness, or even death.

2. What causes a CO buildup? – An excess of CO usually occurs due to one of two reasons: either improper ventilation (of your living space, appliances, or home heating system) or equipment malfunction. Some common causes of CO buildup include:

  • Running unvented appliances for too long
  • Inadequate heating equipment maintenance
  • Backdrafts near the heating appliance
  • Using outdoor equipment inside a basement or garage
  • A blocked flue or vent

3. What are the symptoms of CO poisoning? – Symptoms of CO poisoning worsen as exposure to the gas increases:

  • Mild – Flu-like headaches, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness.
  • Moderate – Severe headaches, drowsiness, confusion, and disorientation
  • Extreme – Unconsciousness, convulsions, heart failure, and in some cases death.

4. What should I do if I experience CO poisoning symptoms?

  • Get fresh air immediately – turn off fuel-burning appliances and leave the house
  • Call 911
  • Contact a doctor for a proper diagnosis; prompt medical attention is critical
  • Get professional service for your equipment before using it again.

5. What should you do if the CO alarm sounds?Never ignore it! If the alarm signal sounds, DO NOT try to find the source of the CO. Instead,

  • Immediately move outside to fresh air
  • Call 911
  • DO NOT reenter the premises until cleared by emergency responders
  • DO NOT use problem appliances until they have been serviced by a professional.

6. How can I avoid problems with CO in my home?

  • Learn the symptoms of CO poisoning, and know what to do if someone experiences them.
  • Service your fuel-burning appliances and heating system every year.
  • Install CO detectors at every level of your home – especially near bedrooms.