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Prevention is the Key to Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that causes thousands of deaths each year in North America. Breathing in carbon monoxide is very dangerous. It is the leading cause of poisoning death in the United States.


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This article is for information only and not for use in the treatment or management of an actual poison exposure. If you have an exposure, you should call your local emergency number (such as 911) or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.


Carbon Monoxide Detector

Poisonous Ingredient


Carbon monoxide is a chemical produced from the incomplete burning of natural gas or other products containing carbon.


Where Found


The following items may produce carbon monoxide:

  • Anything that burns coal, gasoline, kerosene, oil   
  • Indoor and portable heating systems
  • Propane, or wood   
  • Portable propane heaters
  • Automobile engines   
  • Stoves (indoor and camp stoves)
  • Charcoal grills (charcoal should never be burned indoors)
  • Water heaters that use natural gas

   Note: This list may not be all inclusive.




When you breathe in carbon monoxide, the poison replaces the oxygen in your bloodstream. Your heart, brain, and body will become starved of oxygen.


Symptoms vary from person to person. Those at high risk include young children, the elderly, persons with lung or heart disease, people at high altitudes, and smokers. Carbon monoxide can harm a fetus (unborn baby still in the womb).


Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:

  • Breathing problems, including no breathing, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing
  • Chest pain (may occur suddenly in people with angina)   
  • Coma
  • Confusion  
  • Convulsions   
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Drowsiness      
  • Headache
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impaired judgment
  • Irritability
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid or abnormal heart beat
  • Shock
  • Unconsciousness

Home Care


If the person breathed in the poison, immediately move him or her to fresh air. Seek immediate medical help.



Carbon Monoxide Alarm - Specifications and Tips


   1.1   Carbon Monoxide Alarm
1.1.1 Listed to ANSI/UL 2034-09.
1.1.2 Powered by factory sealed, non-removable lithium batteries.
1.1.3 Include low level digital display which enables the client to read and monitor the current and peak CO levels down to 10 PPM, and the duration of the peak level.
   1.2   Minimum Five-Year Warranty
1.2.1 CO Alarm manufacturer shall warrant alarm and lithium batteries for minimum 5 years.
   2.1   Dwelling
2.1.1   CO alarms shall be installed in all residences containing a combustion appliance, or which have an attached garage.
   2.2   Location
2.2.1 An alarm shall be installed within 10' of the entrance to each bedroom and sleeping area, or inside the bedrooms and sleeping areas.
2.2.2 Each closeable bedroom or sleeping area where the door may be closed while the occupant is sleeping, or which contains a combustion appliance, shall have an alarm installed inside the room.
2.2.3 Alarms shall not be installed within garage or unconditioned space.
2.2.4 Alarms shall not be installed in furnace closet or within 5' of a combustion appliance,' combustion appliance flue, supply or exhaust fan, kitchen or bathroom, or storage area for chemicals.
2.2.5 Alarms shall not be installed within 5' of an exterior door or window.
2.2.6 Alarms shall not be installed behind furniture, drapes, or objects that may block air flow.
   2.3   Installation
2.3.1 CO alarms shall be mounted onto an interior wall, 5' above the floor, and secured with a standard phillips or slotted screw to mounting plate.
2.3.2 Installation shall be in compliance with these standards, alarm manufacturer's instructions, and local codes.
   2.4   Existing CO Alarm
2.4.1   Existing CO alarm shall be tested for proper operation by using the alarm's "Test" button.
2.4.2   If existing alarm functions properly, it shall remain in service; if not, it shall be replaced.
   3.1   Alarm Operation and Response
3.1.1 The CO alarm shall be tested upon completion of installation, and the client shall be instructed how to operate, test and maintain the alarm.
3.1.2 The client shall be instructed how to properly respond to an alarm signal.
   3.2   Written Instructions
3.2.1 The client shall be provided with the CO alarm owner's manual.


Courtesy of Don Smith and Associates Inc., dba EnTech Supply.



Install a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home. Place an additional detector near any major gas-burning appliances (such as a furnace or water heater).


Many carbon monoxide poisonings occur in the winter months when furnaces, gas fireplaces, and portable heaters are being used and windows are closed. Make sure you have any heaters and gas-burning appliances regularly inspected to make sure they are safe to use.


Before Calling Emergency

If possible, determine the following information:

  • Patient's age, weight, and condition (for example, is the person awake or alert?)
  • How long they may have been exposed to the carbon monoxide, if known

However, DO NOT delay calling for help if this information is not immediately available.


Protect Your Family and Yourself from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


Carbon Monoxide Can Be Deadly

You can't see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result. Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more die from CO produced by idling cars. Fetuses, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially susceptible. Be safe. Practice the DO's and DON'Ts of carbon monoxide.


CO Poisoning Symptoms


Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer-term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause.


Play it Safe


If you experience symptoms that you think could be from CO poisoning:

  • DO GET FRESH AIR IMMEDIATELY. Open doors and windows, turn off combustion appliances and leave the house.
  • DO GO TO AN EMERGENCY ROOM and tell the physician you suspect CO poisoning. If CO poisoning has occurred, it can often be diagnosed by a blood test done soon after exposure.
  • DO Be prepared to answer the following questions for the doctor:

Do your symptoms occur only in the house? Do they disappear or decrease when you leave home and reappear when you return? Is anyone else in your household complaining of similar symptoms? Did everyone's symptoms appear about the same time? Are you using any fuel-burning appliances in the home? Has anyone inspected your appliances lately? Are you certain they are working properly?


Information from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)


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Prevention is the Key to Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:  Created on April 17th, 2013.  Last Modified on May 10th, 2013


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About Don Smith and Associates

Don Smith and Associates Inc. dba EnTech Supply represents manufacturers and distributors of safety, environmental, gas detection, and energy saving products.



Information provided by The Healthy House Institute is designed to support, not to replace the relationship between patient/physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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