Carbon Monoxide FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

There’s a lot to know about carbon monoxide, and this carbon monoxide FAQs page is designed to help you learn it all.

Q: What is Carbon Monoxide?

A: Carbon monoxide, shortened to CO, is a poisonous gas that is utterly colorless and odorless. It can be deadly when consumed in large quantities by humans.

Q: What Causes Carbon Monoxide?

A: CO is caused by the incomplete combustion or burning of fossil fuels like natural gases, charcoal, wood and coal, propane, kerosene, cars, etc.

Q: How Common is CO Poisoning?

Senior Woman on Ambulance Stretcher 177100358A: It’s difficult to determine just how many Americans are treated for CO poisoning each year; the CDC has estimated it numbers in the range of about fifteen thousand. Nationwide, approximately 500 people or possibly more are killed each year by the effects of this deadly gas.

Q: How Can You Prevent It?

A: To best prevent carbon monoxide, avoid leaving fossil fuels burning wherever possible. Definitely do not leave fuel-burning appliances running when unnecessary and do not use them without the proper instruction. Make sure that your kitchen appliances have been properly installed and that your heating system is regularly inspected by professionals. Avoid burning charcoal inside your home and avoid running the car in the garage for longer than you need to. Space heaters and portable generators should be placed in open places to allow oxygen to flow freely and prevent any carbon monoxide from becoming trapped in an enclosed area.

Q: How Can You Tell If You Might Have CO Poisoning?

A: Carbon monoxide poisoning is difficult to detect because the gas is completely undetectable by the human senses. However, if you notice flu-like symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, tiredness, difficulty breathing, headaches, etc., it’s important to go see a doctor because these are also the initial symptoms of CO poisoning. More severe symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include vomiting, mental confusion, fainting or loss of muscle control, and ultimately, death. Increased exposure will increase the severity of the symptoms. However, high exposure can send an unsuspecting victim directly into the more serious symptoms, in which case he or she will need immediate attention to avoid death.

Q: How Else Can it Be Detected?

Paramedic 3 96920965A: Along with the symptoms listed above, carbon monoxide can be detected with the use of carbon monoxide alarms or detectors placed strategically about the home. Consult your home security company for more information on how to get and install carbon monoxide detectors.

Q: What Should You Do If You Think You Might Have CO Poisoning?

A: The first step is to remove yourself from the location – get outside so that you can breathe fresh air. If you’re concerned that your home may have reached toxic levels of carbon monoxide, then contact your fire department to come investigate. Make sure that no one else in your home has been left unaccounted for; they may be unconscious due to the effects of CO. Call your doctor as soon as possible to describe your symptoms and follow their recommendations for the proper medical attention. If a medical professional validates that you do indeed have CO poisoning, call in your home security professionals to investigate the potential sources in your home.

Q: What are State Laws for CO Alarms and CO Detection?

A: Legislation varies from state to state on the need for carbon monoxide alarms, though many are now requiring that new residences be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors. Your local building code office can confirm the laws in your region.