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Carbon Monoxide Prevention

Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning is key. Learn what to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, whose at a higher risk, and what types of treatments you can expect.

Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. It cannot be seen, smelled, or heard, but poisoning can be avoided. If you suspect a leak or are experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911 or your local fire department immediately.

Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning to protect yourself, family, and friends.

  • Have your appliances checked during inspection and then again every year. 

  • Ensure a carbon monoxide alarm is placed near each fuel-burning appliance. 

  • Look for signs of a carbon monoxide leak (soot or black residue on appliances of above a fireplace). 

  • Replace carbon monoxide alarms approximately every 10 years (or per manufacturer recommendations). 

  • Turn your car off in the garage, never leave the engine running. 

  • Don’t rely exclusively on carbon monoxide alarms, as they may not detect slow, lingering leaks under 30 ppm. 

  • Do not use outdoor appliances inside or near open windows (grill, generator, gas lantern). 

  • Carry a carbon monoxide detector that goes to 0 ppm if you’re part of a vulnerable population. 

  • Clear snow near your car’s exhaust in the snowy winter. 

  • Stay upwind of any carbon monoxide sources outside. 

Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

What to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning

  1. Immediately remove yourself and loved ones from the environment (home, business, school, vehicle, RV, garage). 

  2. Call for help (911, Fire Department, Gas company, qualified maintenance teams equipped with electronic sensors) 

  3. Do not return inside until you’re given all clear by emergency personnel or certified contractors. 

  4. Don’t use the faulty or improperly vented appliance again until it’s fixed. 

  5. After exposure, your cognitive abilities may be impaired. Have someone immediately drive you to the nearest medical facility. Carbon monoxide poisoning tests are time-sensitive (4-6 hours) and knowing your exposure level is important for a plan of care. 

Firetruck parked outside of house on suburban street

Remove yourself

Call for help

Don't return inside until cleared

Have the faulty appliance fixed

Get a test

High Risk Populations & Activities

Carbon monoxide can impact every person – but these groups are physiologically or demographically at higher risk for carbon monoxide poisoning:

Populations

  • The elderly - This group is more likely to have a respiratory or heart condition that may predispose them to more severe CO poisoning. 

  • Children - This group has higher metabolism and take breaths more frequently than adults do, which may make them more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning. 

  • The hearing impaired – Carbon monoxide detectors only make noise to alert which may not be heard by those who are fully or partially hearing impaired (and not wearing audio devices). 

  • Pregnant women - This group is at risk because the mother’s CO levels affect baby’s CO levels, impairing both mother and child simultaneously.

  • Immunocompromised - This group may be impacted by impaired gas exchange due to lung volume and diffusing capacity, 

  • Socially/economically disadvantaged - This group often has older appliances in the home, may rely on alternative heat and fuel sources, and also have less access to life-saving treatments such as HBO2 chambers in their local hospitals. 

  • Pets - Pets are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of CO due to their smaller body size, fast metabolism, and behavior. Further, home CO detector alarm standards are designed to save human lives, not animal lives, putting pets at significant risk of serious injury or death due to CO poisoning. 

Activities

  • People who are sleeping or under the influence of alcohol – People in these situations may inhale toxic amounts of carbon monoxide without recognizing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning 

  • Those who exercise and stay physically fit while indoors – While exercising, one breathes in at a faster rate. if there are any carbon monoxide sources nearby, it can be inhaled at a quicker rate.

Our response to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's request for information on chronic hazards associated with gas ranges and proposed solutions.

We recently responded to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's Request for Information on chronic hazards associated with gas ranges and proposed solutions. As representatives of the National Carbon Monoxide Awareness Association (NCOAA), we highlighted the risks of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning posed by indoor combustion, particularly from gas ranges. Our letter addressed the dangerous levels of carbon monoxide emissions associated with gas ranges, the lack of properly functioning carbon monoxide alarms in residences, the design of carbon monoxide alarms as life-safety devices, and the impact of chronic, low-level CO poisoning on health. To learn more about our response and the critical issues surrounding carbon monoxide safety, please read our full letter by clicking the button below.

Image by KWON JUNHO
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