Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas caused by the incomplete combustion of carbon fuels – including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane and natural gas. Although accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from natural gas appliances is statistically rare, the existence of carbon monoxide in the home can be caused by improper installation, poor maintenance or other appliance misuse or failure.

Be Alert to the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

When combustion takes place without sufficient oxygen, carbon monoxide is produced. It’s important to be alert to the dangers of improper venting. Carbon monoxide displaces oxygen in the blood, so prolonged exposure can lead to death by asphyxiation.

Signs of Carbon Monoxide Presence:

Be alert for:

  1. A yellow, large and unsteady burner flame (except for decorative gas logs)
  2. An unusual pungent odor when the appliance is operating
  3. Unexplained nausea, drowsiness and flu-like symptoms

If you suspect the presence of carbon monoxide:

  • Stop using the suspected gas appliance immediately.
  • Seek emergency medical attention if anyone in the home experiences carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms.
  • Do not use the appliance until it has been inspected, serviced and determined to be safe.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide may cause any or all of the following symptoms – headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, irregular breathing, rapid heartbeat, ringing in the ears, seeing spots, fatigue, confusion, memory loss, loss of coordination, blurred vision, feeling ill or tired at home but fine when away from home, loss of consciousness, coma and eventually seizures, cardiac arrest and respiratory failure.

Household signs include stuffy, foul-smelling or stale air; the smell of exhaust fumes; a yellow/orange flame on gas ranges, furnace, or water heater burners; soot around the outside of the chimney, furnace/water heater flue vent or fireplace, and large areas of condensation of water vapor on walls or windows.

Preventative Measures & Safety Tips

  • Purchase carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Be sure all gas appliances are installed, adjusted and operating properly.
  • Have appliances installed by a professional, and carefully follow manufacturer instructions.
  • Do not cut off or restrict combustion air sources to appliances.
  • Equipment should be inspected regularly by a qualified and licensed heating or appliance contractor.
  • Provide adequate ventilation in the house when using stoves, fireplaces or unvented space heaters.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors or in an enclosed space.
  • Clean the chimney and check for blockage, especially with wood burning fireplaces and stoves.
  • Open the garage door before starting your vehicle.
  • Make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector and change the batteries regularly.
  • Don’t use outdoor appliances or equipment indoors for space heating or cooking.