Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. Each year, nearly 500 people die from accidental CO poisoning in the United States. CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by cars and trucks, small gas engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, gas ranges, and heating systems. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces. People and animals who are exposed to CO can be poisoned by breathing it.

During a Power Outage
  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating - it can cause a buildup of CO inside your home.
  • Never use a charcoal or barbecue grill indoors. Using a grill indoors will cause a buildup of CO inside your home unless you use it inside a vented fireplace.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal that is red, gray, black, or white gives off CO.
  • Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors.
  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window, door, or vent.
The most common symptoms are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Inhalation of high levels of CO can cause loss of consciousness and even death. CO poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to other illnesses. People who are sleeping can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.
Prevention in the Home
  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors. Although these heaters don't have a flame, they burn gas and can cause CO to build up inside your home.
  • When purchasing gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as the American Gas Association or Underwriters' Laboratories.
  • Install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
co detector
Prevention in a Vehicle
  • Have a mechanic check the exhaust system of your vehicles every year. A small leak in the exhaust system can lead to a buildup of CO inside the car.
  • Never run a vehicle in the garage with the garage door shut, especially if your garage is attached to the house. CO can build up quickly while your car is running in a closed garage.
  • If you drive a vehicle with a tailgate, when you open the tailgate, you also need to open vents or windows to make sure air is moving through your car. If only the tailgate is open, CO from the exhaust will be pulled into the car.
CDC Information on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning