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NYC Hazards: Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide — a colorless and odorless gas — is a normal by-product of fuel combustion that can be created by typical heating fuels (i.e., oil, coal, wood, gasoline, kerosene, diesel fuel or natural gas). High levels of carbon monoxide indoors, however, can be dangerous to your health, and can cause serious illness or death if inhaled in large concentrations.

Carbon monoxide can build up to a dangerous level if a fuel-burning appliance isn't operating properly, or is not safely venting fuel combustion by-products. For instance, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can be produced from improperly vented furnaces, plugged or cracked chimneys, water heaters, space heaters, fireplaces, stoves, and tail pipes.

Running a vehicle inside a garage is the most common carbon monoxide danger. During the heating season, when fresh air circulation is reduced, it's especially important to prevent carbon monoxide buildup indoors.

Hundreds of people die from carbon monoxide poisoning every year, and thousands of others suffer dizziness, severe headache, and nausea. The most common symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning is headache. However, symptoms may also include dizziness, chest pain, nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, people can become increasingly irritable, agitated and confused, eventually becoming lethargic and lapsing into unconsciousness. Everyone is at risk; however, people with health problems, seniors, pregnant women, and infants are at higher risk.

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Open windows
  • Leave your home
  • Get to fresh air immediately
  • Call 911
  • Call your the New York City Poison Control Center: 212-POISONS (212-764-7667)

Tips for Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home and check them regularly to make sure the batteries are working. NYC law requires owners to provide and install at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm within 15 feet of the primary entrance to each sleeping room. Test these alarms
    Learn more about NYC's carbon monoxide detector law
  • Have your home-heating systems, fuel-burning appliances, flues, and chimneys inspected, cleaned and tuned up annually by a qualified technician.
  • Never heat your home with a gas stove or oven.
  • Kerosene heaters and propane space heaters are dangerous and illegal in New York City.
  • Never use any gas-powered appliance, such as a generator, indoors.
  • Never use a charcoal grill or a hibachi indoors.
  • Never run a car or truck in a garage or enclosed area. Clear exhaust pipes before starting a car or truck after it snows.

More Resources

NYC's carbon monoxide detector law (NYC Department of Housing)
Carbon monoxide information (NYC Department of Health)
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms (FDNY)