Carbon Monoxide, The Silent Killer


In the U.S., carbon monoxide is responsible for many unintentional and needlessly deaths and illness. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports, "An estimated 300 people die each year as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning and thousands of others end up in hospital emergency rooms."

Carbon monoxide (See the poisoning symptoms of Carbon Monoxide) is often called a silent killer, because it is an odorless, colorless gas. It can lead to serious illness or death if inhaled in significant amounts.

Carbon monoxide is produced as a result of incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels. In our homes and camp-sites, it can be emitted by combustion sources such as unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, furnaces, woodstoves, gas stoves, fireplaces and water heaters, and automobile exhaust from attached garages. Health problems can arise as a result of improper installation, maintenance, or inadequate ventilation.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are sometimes confused with the flu or food poisoning. Symptoms will vary depending on the amount inhaled and include fatigue, headache, weakness, confusion, disorientation, nausea, and dizziness. Very high levels can cause death.

The CDC offers these suggestions to help protect you and your loved ones from carbon monoxide poisoning:

Make sure that every appliance in your home is installed properly and is working correctly.

Have your furnace, chimneys and flues inspected and cleaned each year.

If using a fireplace, make sure the flue is open.


Never heat your home with a gas range or oven.

Be sure that your stove and furnace vent outdoors and there are no leaks in the exhaust systems.

Also make sure that your furnace takes in enough fresh air.

Never burn charcoal indoors or in any enclosed space, such as in a camper or R.V.

Never leave a gas-fueled tool or vehicle running inside a garage or tool shed, or anywhere indoors.

Never use kerosene or gas heaters indoors.

Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home and camper. This is a backup but not as a replacement for proper use and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances.

Don't ignore symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, especially if more than one person is feeling them. If you think you are suffering from CO poisoning, then you should get fresh air immediately. Do this by opening doors and windows. Turn off your combustion appliance and leave your home.

Then go to the emergency room and tell the physician

Center for Disease Control and Prevention
National Safety Council