Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO), often called the “silent killer,” is a colorless, odorless and deadly gas that kills more than 500 Americans each year.

How is it Produced?

Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including propane, natural gas, oil, kerosene, wood, charcoal or coal. Portable generators, cars, lawn mowers and other equipment powered by internal combustion engines produce CO. The danger occurs when too much CO accumulates in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces. When a person breathes in CO, the gas combines with the body’s blood and prevents it from absorbing oxygen. High levels of CO inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death.

What are the Symptoms of CO Poisoning?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Unless suspected, CO poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses, such as the flu. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing  symptoms.

Guidelines to Prevent CO Exposure

  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • If you suspect a problem with an appliance at any point throughout the year, play it safe and have a qualified service technician check it out.
  • Inspect and clean chimneys annually.
  • Install battery-operated CO detectors in your home and office building and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
  • If the CO detector sounds, leave the building immediately and call 911.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseous.
  • Don't use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement or garage or outside near a window.
  • Don't run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.
  • Don't burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn't vented.
  • Don't heat your house with a gas oven.
  • Make sure that your rectory, convent, retreat facility and/or other buildings where people live or work have carbon monoxide detectors installed and that they are in proper working order.

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of Risk Management.