Carbon Monoxide

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas that comes from fuel-burning machinery used indoors, car exhaust fumes, and combustion equipment such as furnaces or water heaters that are not working properly or with a blocked exhaust system.

Is it dangerous?

When inhaled in high levels, CO can be fatal. Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of the flu and allergies. It is most dangerous to infants, people with lung or heart disease or anemia. CO poisoning is often misdiagnosed as migraine headache, stroke, food poisoning, or heart disease.

How can I protect myself and my family?

CO poisoning is preventable if you know what to do. The following is recommended by the Department of Housing and Urban Development:

  • Never run your car in a closed garage.
  • Hire a professional to install fuel burning appliances, and check that work properly.
  • Choose vented appliances.
  • Never use a gas range or oven to heat your home.
  • Have your heating system and chimneys inspected each year.
  • During winter months, regularly check that vents, flues and chimneys are not blocked by snow or ice.
  • Replace dirty air filters on heating and cooling systems.
  • Never run a generator, power washer, or any diesel or gasoline-powered engine inside a basement, garage, or enclosed structure.
  • Install ventilation for indoor combustion appliances and consider installing air exchanges or air conditioning if your home is tightly sealed.
  • Never use a charcoal grill, hibachi, or camping lantern or portable stove inside your home, tent, or camper.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors near bedrooms.
  • Talk to your doctor or local health department if you suspect that you, or a family member, might be suffering from CO poisoning.
  • Call the Planning and Land Use Services Department, Mass Save, or the Fire Departmentif you have concerns or questions about the combustion appliances in your home.

Image of a carbon monoxide detector:

Carbon dioxide monitor