Poison Prevention: Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is created by the incomplete burning of fuel, such as natural gas, propane and wood. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may include fatigue, nausea, dizziness and headache. These symptoms are often misdiagnosed or unnoticed because they mimic the flu.

Severe carbon monoxide poisoning can result in seizures, serious injury or death.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  • House fires
  • Unvented furnaces, boilers, stoves, hot water heaters and other fuel burning equipment
  • Gas stoves or ovens that are used to heat the home
  • Clogged chimneys and heating exhaust vents
  • Grills used inside a building or tent
  • Generators used too close to the home (less than 20 feet from open windows or enclosed areas)
  • Running cars or gas-powered tools in enclosed areas
  • Running cars that have snow (or something else) blocking the exhaust pipe

Tips to Prevent Poisoning in Your Home

  • Do not use your gas oven or stove to heat your home.
  • Do not run a car inside the garage. In the winter, make sure the tailpipe is clear of snow before you start the car engine.
  • Do not use an outdoor grill inside a home, garage or tent.
  • If you use a generator during a power outage, keep it outdoors, at least 20 feet from open windows or enclosed areas.
  • Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon monoxide detectors alert you when there are dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in your home. Most homes and residential buildings in New York City are required by law to have carbon monoxide detectors installed in the sleeping areas.

Building owners are responsible for installing approved carbon monoxide detectors. Occupants are responsible for regularly testing detectors to make sure they work and replacing the batteries. You should test carbon monoxide detectors at least once a month. You should also replace your carbon monoxide detector's batteries twice a year. Try to time replacements for daylight saving days in the spring and fall.

If you hear a carbon monoxide detector alert:

  1. Open your windows.
  2. Leave your home.
  3. Get to fresh air immediately.
  4. Call 911 to ask the Fire Department to check the carbon monoxide level in your home.
  5. Call the New York City Poison Control Center — (212) POISONS (212-764-7667) — while you are waiting to get instructions about what to do next.

Additional Resources

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