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Carbon Monoxide: Keep It Out Of Your Home

If you could prevent a thief from sneaking into your home, you’d do it, wouldn’t you? Well, there is a thief that can silently show up and steal your health and life, and you can prevent it.

The sneak thief is carbon monoxide (CO). It has no odor, no color, no taste. It does not irritate your eyes. It gives no warning of its presence until animals and people get sick from it. Thousands of people find this sneak thief in their home, car, or workplace every year. For some people, it costs them their lives.


If you are using something that runs on batteries or electricity, there is no risk of CO. Carbon monoxide is a risk when fuel is burning to make heat or to power a tool, but the fuel is not burning cleanly with lots of fresh air and good ventilation. Things that burn gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene, coal, wood, charcoal, tobacco and the like can make CO. For example, a car, furnace, fireplace, hot water heater, portable space heater, stove, engine powered tool, or charcoal grill can become a source of CO.

If the equipment is operating properly and there is good ventilation, there will not be a problem. For example, there is no problem with barbequing on a charcoal grill outside because any CO that is made floats away to nothing in the open air. But bring that same charcoal grill inside the house, and the carbon monoxide can collect to dangerous levels. Likewise, a regular motor vehicle is fine outside on the road. But if it runs for a long time in a garage with the door closed, a harmful level of CO can collect.

Carbon monoxide exposures become more frequent during cold weather because more people are burning fuel to make heat or energy.


In its early stages, the illness that follows CO exposure looks a lot like the flu with headache, dizziness, upset stomach, tired or overall sick feeling. If the CO level is just a little high, it may cause only difficulty thinking or memory problems.

Children can get sick from CO while the adults still feel fine.

Serious problems can come next, such as passing out or heart attacks.


1. Put a carbon monoxide detector in at least one of the bedrooms used by an adult. If the alarm goes off, immediately leave the house and call the fire department.

2. Do not use anything that runs on an engine or burns fuel inside the house except appliances that are meant for indoor use and are installed and operating properly.

3. If you want to use a fireplace or a wood stove, make sure the flue is open and working properly so that any CO is carried away to the outdoors.

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