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Carbon Monoxide Safety

What you should know about carbon monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that is odorless, colorless, tasteless and non-irritating. When CO is breathed into the body, it combines with the body’s blood and prevents it from absorbing oxygen. Carbon monoxide is not a physical property of natural gas. Carbon monoxide is produced from the incomplete combustion of such common fuels as natural gas, propane, heating oil, gasoline, coal, wood, charcoal and kerosene, and from almost any other combustible material such as tobacco, fibers and paper. Carbon monoxide is found in the exhaust fumes of motor vehicles and malfunctioning heating equipment.

Symptoms of CO poisoning

A person exposed to carbon monoxide may complain of dizziness, headache, nausea, fatigue and other symptoms similar to those associated with the flu. The severity of the symptoms will vary, depending on the person’s age and general health, level of physical activity, and the duration and concentration of exposure. In very severe cases, CO poisoning can be fatal.

What can I do to prevent CO in my home?

A few common sense precautions can greatly reduce the risk of CO poisoning in the home:

  • Never operate vehicles in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Keep vents and chimneys clear of blockages.
  • Never operate charcoal grills, portable gas grills or similar equipment inside a home, garage or other enclosed area.
  • Do not use a range, oven or clothes dryer for heating.
  • Have space and water heating equipment inspected regularly by a qualified technician.
  • New York State's Amanda's law requires existing one- and two-family residences to have at least one carbon monoxide alarm installed on the lowest floor of the building having a sleeping area. The alarm must be clearly audible in all sleeping areas over background noise levels with all intervening doors closed.  The requirement applies to residences with any fuel burning appliance, and/or attached garage.  


What to do if you suspect you have a CO problem

Click here for emergency instructions.