Carbon Monoxide

Do carbon monoxide detectors operate differently than smoke alarms?
Although they may look and sound similar, carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms are designed and intended to detect two separate, distinct hazards. To help protect your family from both hazards, it’s important to install both.

What is carbon monoxide? 
Carbon monoxide, known by the chemical formula CO, is a tasteless, odorless, toxic gas created when the fuel burns. Any gas, oil, wood, propane or kerosene burning heating system or appliance is a potential source of carbon monoxide in the home.

Under normal circumstances, carbon monoxide safely exits the house through vents, flues or chimneys. Sometimes, though, air pressure changes outside the home or malfunctioning appliances can cause carbon monoxide exhaust gas to remain in the home. A clogged chimney flue or improperly installed appliance or vent can also keep carbon monoxide from escaping.

A car left running in an attached garage or charcoal grill operated in an enclosed area can also cause carbon monoxide to reach unsafe levels.

Why is carbon monoxide dangerous? 
Carbon monoxide starves the blood of oxygen, literally causing the body to suffocate from the inside out. It accumulates in the blood, leading first to flu-like symptoms and eventually to brain damage or death. How quickly symptoms appear depends upon concentration of carbon monoxide in the air and duration of exposure. A person’s size, age and general health are also factors in how quickly effects of the gas will become evident.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning? 
CO poisoning victims may initially suffer flu-like symptoms including nausea, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, confusion and breathing difficulty. Because CO poisoning often causes a victim’s blood pressure to rise, the victim’s skin may take on a pink or red cast.

How can I avoid carbon monoxide poisoning?
The most important steps are preventive ones. Have a qualified service professional inspect your fuel-burning appliances at lease once a year. Install UL listed carbon monoxide detectors outside of sleeping areas and near all fuel-burning appliances. Avoid using charcoal grills inside the home, tent or camper or in an unventilated garage. Don’t allow vehicle exhaust fumes to enter the home. Make sure all fuel-burning appliances are properly ventilated.