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 low red blood cell counts, heart or respiratory ailments as well as infants are at higher risk.
If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Leave your home
- Call 911
- Get any victims to fresh air immediately
- Open windows
- Call your gas provider