Carbon Monoxide (from USDA’s Help Yourself to a Healthy Home)

Never use charcoal grills or run engines inside your home, garage, or basement even for a short time.  Charcoal grills and small gasoline engines make a lot of carbon monoxide.  Even opening all the windows and doors will not give you enough fresh air to prevent CO poisoning.

Never warm up a vehicle inside the garage.  Warming up your car, truck, or motorcycle on a cold day for just a couple of minutes (even with the garage door open) can make enough CO to make you sick.  Start lawn mowers, snow blowers, and other yard equipment outdoors.

Have a licensed heating contractor check your furnace, chimneys, and other sources of CO every fall to make sure everything is okay.  Make sure the contractor uses a tool that measures CO.  To get harmful gases out of a home, many heating appliances have chimneys.  (Chimneys on gas appliances are called vents).  The chimney carries CO and other gases from the appliance outdoors.  If your appliances and vents are working right, there should be little CO in your home.  If you rent, ask your landlord to have the heating system checked.

Make sure chimneys are in good shape  –  clean and working right.  Have your chimney, wood-burning fireplace, or woodstove swept every year.  Burning wood nearly always makes a lot of CO.  It is very important that all the smoke goes out the chimney.

If you use unvented kerosene or gas heaters or a vent-free gas fireplace, follow instructions carefully and always open a window for fresh air.  Do not use them while sleeping.

Put carbon monoxide alarms near each sleeping area and on each floor of your home.  (Older models are called carbon monoxide detectors.)  You can find them at your local hardware, discount, outlet, or building supply store for $20 to $50.

Never use the kitchen stove or oven to heat your home.

Always turn on the kitchen exhaust fan when using a nonelectric oven or range top.

Have the kitchen range top fixed before using it if the flames burn orange or yellow.

Don’t use a smoking fireplace.

If someone in your family shows signs of CO poisoning, or if a CO alarm goes off:

  • Get outside right away.
  • Call 911 or your local emergency number from a phone outside your home.
  • See a doctor or nurse right away.  See a doctor or nurse even if you feel better after breathing fresh air.  They can check your blood and breath for CO and tell if you need more medical care.
  • Treat all alarm soundings as emergencies.  Never ignore an alarm sounding.
  • Have your home checked out by a qualified heating or appliance contractor.
  • Don’t go back home until all problems have been found and fixed.