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Bureau of Epidemiology

Environmental Epidemiology Program

Carbon Monoxide

What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas, which can be fatal when breathed. Every year, in the United States hundreds of people die from CO poisoning. CO is produced by burning fuels and any fuel-burning appliance in the home or garage is a possible source for CO.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
The symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the flu (without the fever) and allergies. CO poisoning can be diagnosed incorrectly, due to the similarities. At low to moderate levels of exposure, you may have a headache, dizziness, nausea, difficult breathing and fatigue. Depending on how long your exposure to CO is and the amount you’re exposed to, you may not experience any of the symptoms at the lower to moderate levels. At higher levels of exposure you may experience vomiting, mental confusion, loss of muscular coordination, loss of consciousness and death. If you suspect you’re experiencing CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately!

How can I prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Keep fuel-burning appliances in good working order. Have a heating contractor check your furnace, water heater, chimney and other sources of CO every year. Never operate a gas camping stove, use a charcoal grill, generator, gas lantern or heater, lawnmower, chainsaw, snow blower or any other yard equipment inside the home or garage. Never warm up your car in the garage, even if the door is open. If you have a boat with a gas engine, make sure the exhaust is properly vented and check the exhaust system each time you go out on the water.
Install a battery operated or plug-in (with battery backup) carbon monoxide alarm near all separate sleeping areas and one on each floor and check the batteries every six months.
If you smell gas or you hear the smoke or carbon monoxide alarm leave the building immediately!

Where can I find additional Information?
HUD (Housing and Urban Development): Help Yourself to a Healthy Home
CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
     Protect Your Family and Yourself from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission)

  • CO Fact Sheet- English
  • CO Fact Sheet - Spanish
  • The Invisible Killer- English
  • The Invisible Killer - Spanish

  • What You Should Know About Combustion Appliances and Indoor Air Pollution Carbon Monoxide Poisoning with Camping Equipment