Reduce Your Carbon Monoxide Risk

Close up of hands installing a smoke detector that has carbon monoxide sensor capabilities.

Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, colorless, odorless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. Sources of carbon monoxide include:

Fetuses, infants, elderly people and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be affected more quickly by carbon monoxide. At lower levels, carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms: headaches, dizziness, weakness and fatigue. At higher levels, or with prolonged exposure, it can cause confusion, disorientation, impaired vision and coordination, brain damage, coma and death.

Ways to Reduce Risk

Are There Warning Devices Available?

A variety of carbon monoxide detectors, both plug-in and battery-powered, are available at hardware, home and discount stores. Read packages carefully and compare features. Look for a detector that meets Underwriters Laboratories Safety Standard 2034, which includes the requirement that the detector sound an audible alarm. Patch detectors, which change color in the presence of carbon monoxide, do not by themselves provide adequate warning. If you have family members with special health needs, purchase a detector labelled "super-sensitive." Read the owner's manual completely and be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding installation.

What to Do if the Carbon Monoxide Alarm Sounds

If the alarm sounds and anyone is feeling symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, your home may have a potentially dangerous level. Leave the house immediately. Call the fire department, local emergency medical services, poison center, or local utility company from a neighbor's home. If the alarm sounds and no one is feeling any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, ventilate the home by opening windows and doors and turning on fans. Turn off any combustion appliances immediately. Then call an appliance repair technician to find the cause of the alarm.

For more information about carbon monoxide and carbon monoxide detectors contact the Minnesota Safety Council.

Source: Minnesota Safety Council, citing the Environmental Protection Agency; Minnesota Department of Health; CenterPoint Energy; Xcel Energy