What You Need to Know about Carbon Monoxide
Can’t be seen
Can’t be smelled
Can’t be heard
Can be stopped
Is it the FLU or your FLUE?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, deadly gas. Because you can’t see, taste or smell it, CO is known as the silent killer. Like any fuel, natural gas needs enough oxygen from combustion air to burn safely and completely. Without enough oxygen, the burn is incomplete and CO results. CO is easily absorbed into the bloodstream, displacing oxygen, eventually resulting in brain damage or death. Dangerous levels of CO can especially affect unborn babies, infants and people with anemia or a history of heart disease.
What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
Physical symptoms of CO poisoning vary, depending on the amount of CO absorbed into the bloodstream and the time one is exposed to CO. Carbon Monoxide poisoning symptoms are commonly mistaken for the Flu. They share all the same symptoms except a fever.
Mild exposure Medium exposure Severe exposure
- Slight headache
- Severe headache
- Cardiac/respiratory failure
- Rapid heart rate
What to do if you suspect CO in your home or business
- Leave the premises and get fresh air immediately.
- Call 9-1-1 or 448-4800.
- If experiencing the flu-like symptoms of CO poisoning, seek medical attention.
- Call your heating fuel supplier or a licensed heating contractor for an emergency inspection.
- Do not return to your home or business until the source of CO has been discovered and the problem has been corrected.
How do I reduce the risk of CO poisoning?
You can prevent CO poisoning through proper appliance installation, maintenance and use. Colorado law requires that all residences using fuel-burning heat sources or appliances, or possessing an attached garage be equipped with a CO detector. The detector must be installed within 15 feet of entrances to any sleeping area. Follow these steps to protect you and your family.
- Install a CO detector on every floor of your home, especially near sleeping areas.
- When purchasing a CO detector, be sure it conforms to Underwriters Laboratories standard (UL) 2034 or is American Gas Association certified.
- Follow the manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions.
- Be sure there’s a test button to verify that the detector is working.
- Have a qualified professional annually inspect your heating and cooling equipment. The contractor should check appliance vents for corrosion and blockage. The appliance itself should be checked for cleanliness, proper adjustment and approved connectors.
- Never operate a vehicle, lawn mower, snow blower or other fuel burning equipment in an attached garage, even with the door open.
- Do not use your gas range or oven for heat. Never burn charcoal indoors.
- Make sure your clothes dryer is properly vented and free of lint.
- When you have a fire going in your fireplace, crack open a window a couple inches to allow for adequate outside air for combustion.
- When camping, do not operate a fuel-burning heater, lantern, or stove inside your tent or camper without proper ventilation. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
Roof Venting Facts
- After severe weather, visually check flue vent piping from the gas appliances inside the home and the attic to make sure pipes are not disconnected.
- Check the venting on the roof and clear all vents of storm debris to guarantee air flow.
- Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum or another substance. This kind of patch can cause CO to build up in a home.
- Have repairs made by a licensed plumber or heating and air contractor if problems are noticed.
- Know the proper way to install vent pipes. Horizontal vent pipes to gas-fueled appliances should not be perfectly level. They should slant up slightly as they head toward the outdoors. This helps prevent gases from leaking if the pipes or joints are not fitted properly.
- After a home is reroofed or repaired, bring in a plumber or air and heating contractor to check that venting was installed correctly inside and outside the building.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in the home, preferably near bedrooms, to alert residents if CO levels rise. A detector is the only way to know when dangerous CO levels are present in a home.