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      NSC HOME > Safety at Home > Home and Recreational Safety > Poisoning > Carbon Monoxide      
Carbon Monoxide


Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by cars and trucks, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, gas ranges and heating systems. CO gas can build up in enclosed spaces such as garages, sheds or porches. People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned by breathing it.

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. At high levels, it can cause loss of consciousness and death. Since symptoms mimic other illnesses, it can be difficult to diagnose. People who are sleeping can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.

Take Action To Prevent CO Poisoning

  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil or coal burning appliance serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Install a battery-operated CO detector in your home. Check and replace the battery each Spring and Fall. 
  • Test your detector regularly. Plan what your family will do if the detector sounds. If the alarm ever sounds, leave your home and then call 911.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseous.
  • Keep flues open when fireplaces are in use. Never use an unvented stove or fireplace.
  • Do not heat your home with a gas range or oven.
  • Generators, charcoal grills and camp stoves should not be used inside your home or building.
  • Never run a car or truck inside an attached garage, even if you leave the garage door open.

Prevent CO Poisoning while Boating

Your home is not the only place CO poisoning can occur. Gas engines on boats, including on-board generators, produce carbon monoxide, too. On larger boats, such as houseboats, vents can cause CO build up along the water near the rear swim deck or water platform. At slow speeds or while idling, CO can also be found in boat's cabin, bridge or aft decks.

Prevent CO poisoning while boating:

  • Install and maintain a working CO detector inside the boat.
  • Properly install and maintain all fuel burning engines and appliances.
  • Educate all passengers about signs and symptoms of CO poisoning.
  • Swim and play away from areas where engines exhaust - dock, beach or anchor at least 20 feet away from nearby boats running a generator or engine.


Emergencies and Power Outages

CO poisoning incidents increase during power outages, severe weather and natural disasters.  Learn how to prevent CO poisoning during and after the storm.


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