Carbon monoxide is often referred to as CO, which is its chemical symbol. Unlike many gases, CO has no odor, color or taste, and it doesn't irritate your skin. Red blood cells pick up CO quicker than they pick up oxygen. If there is excessive CO in the air, your body may replace oxygen in your blood with CO. This can damage tissues in your body, and can be fatal. Knowing where CO is found, and how to avoid it, can help to protect you from serious injury or death.

CONTENTS
Questions
Your Car or Truck
Other

 

 

Checklist for the Prevention of
Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is often referred to as CO, which is its chemical symbol. Unlike many gases, CO has no odor, color, or taste, and it doesn't irritate your skin.

Red blood cells pick up CO quicker than they pick up oxygen. If there is a lot of CO in the air, your body may replace oxygen in your blood with CO. This can damage tissues in your body, and it can kill you. Knowing where CO is found and how to avoid it can protect you from serious injury or death.

Click here to view diagram.

QUESTIONS

The Home, Cabin, and Camper

Most questions will apply equally to homeowners, campers, and renters. Renters should ask their landlords about maintenance and repairs.

How often should I have my fireplace draft and the drafts of other fuel-burning appliances checked? Every year. Have all fuel-burning venting systems in your home checked by an expert every year.

How often should my gas appliances be checked? Every year. Have all gas appliances checked every year. Your gas company may be willing to do this for you.

Do all gas appliances need to be vented?
Yes. All gas appliances must be vented so that CO will not build up in your home, cabin, or camper.

How often should my chimney vent be checked for defects or debris? 
Every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris. This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin. Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year.

Is it okay to patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else? 
No. This kind of patch can make CO build up in your home, cabin, or camper.

Should the horizontal vent pipes to my fuel appliances be perfectly level?
No. Indoor vent pipes should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors. This helps prevent CO or other gases from leaking if the joints or pipes aren't fitted tightly. Click on diagram below to learn more about this.

Click here to view diagram.

Should I use my gas range or oven for heating?
No. Using a gas range or oven for heating can cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper.

Is it normal for the cooling unit of my gas refrigerator give off an odor?
No. An odor from the cooling unit of your gas refrigerator can mean you have a defect in the cooling unit. It could also be giving off CO. If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator's cooling unit you should have an expert service it. 

Should I use a charcoal grill or a barbecue grill indoors?
No. Using a grill indoors will cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper unless you use it inside a vented fireplace.

Should I use burning charcoal indoors? 
No. Burning charcoal--red, gray, black, or white-- gives off CO.

Are portable flameless chemical heaters (catalytic) safe to use indoors? 
No. Although these heaters don't have a flame, they burn gas and can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper.

Should I use a portable gas camp stove indoors?
No. Using a gas camp stove indoors can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper. 

Your Car or Truck

How often should I have a mechanic check the exhaust system of my car?
Every year. A small leak in your car's exhaust system can lead to a build up of CO inside the car.

Is it okay to run my car or truck in the garage with the garage door shut?
No. CO can build up quickly while your car or truck is running an a closed garage. Never run your car in a garage unless the outside door is open to let in fresh air.

Do I need to leave the door closed between my attached garage and my house when I run my car or truck in the garage?
Yes. CO can easily go from your garage through the door that opens into your house, even if your garage door is open to let in fresh air. Keep the door connecting your garage to your house closed when your car or truck is running in your garage.

Should I keep my car or truck windows open while driving in heavy traffic, even I run the air conditioner?
Yes. Even with an air conditioner CO can be pulled into your car or truck while you drive slowly in heavy traffic. Open your windows slightly to let the CO out and fresh air in.

I drive a station wagon. Should I lower the tailgate to get more air in the car?
If you open the tailgate, you also need to open vents or windows to make sure air is moving through your car. If only the tailgate is open CO from the exhaust will be pulled into the car.

Other

When I choose gas equipment, how do I know what's safe? 
Buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as the American Gas Association or the Underwriters' Laboratory.

How hard is it to convert a fuel burner from one fuel to another?
It can be very hard to do this safely. You need to have an expert make the right changes and check whether the burner is venting correctly.

Is there anything I should do when I stay at motels or hotels that have heating units located in the room? 
Yes. Read the instructions on the unit or ask the hotel staff how it works. Even if the equipment is made and installed correctly, using it the wrong way can lead to a build up of CO in your room.

 

Air and Respiratory Health Branch
National Center for Environmental Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This page last reviewed August 20, 2007

 
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