Bristol Kendall
Fire Protection District

Bristol Kendall
Fire Protection District

Carbon Monoxide

What You Need to Know

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and very toxic gas that cannot be detected by the human senses.

What makes Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon Monoxide is a by-product of combustion, and is found whenever any type of fuel is burned incompletely.


  • The National Fire Safety Council reports that an average of 2,000 people die and 40,000 others are treated for CO poisoning each year. Approximately 1/3 of the reported CO deaths took place in the winter, when vehicles were left running in the garage without proper ventilation.
  • High levels of CO in a residence can be fatal in as little as 10 minutes of exposure.
  • CO replaces oxygen in the blood, causing the body to become poisoned by the lack of necessary oxygen being transported to the body’s vital organs.
  • CO poisoning is especially toxic to infants and children, pregnant females and the fetus, elderly, smokers, history of anemia, and people with immune system diseases.

Common sources for the production of Carbon Monoxide

  • Incompletely burned natural or liquefied petroleum (LP) gas.
  • Poor ventilation of fireplaces and woodstoves.
  • Indoor use of gas and charcoal grills.
  • Fire and smoke.
  • Generators.
  • Gas furnaces and hot water heaters.
  • Gas clothes dryers.
  • Motorized vehicle exhaust fumes.
  • Propane-powered equipment.

Signs and symptoms of CO poisoning

  • Can mimic the signs of a common cold or flu.
  • Throbbing headache.
  • Dizziness and/or ringing in the ears.
  • Blurred vision and/or burning eyes.
  • Fatigue, fainting, or unresponsiveness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Confusion, disorientation, loss of muscle control.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain and or tightening in the chest.
  • Rapid heartbeat/pulse.

What you need to know about CO detectors

  • CO detectors sound an alarm similar to smoke alarms when levels of CO are in the air.
  • When choosing a CO detector, look for the UL-approval label.
  • Install detectors on every level of the home near sleeping areas and in the area of gas appliances and furnaces.
  • Be sure that the alarm can be heard from every sleeping area.
  • Test CO detectors once a month.
  • Replace CO detectors according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Some new detectors will have a digital reading of CO in the air as well as alarming capabilities.
  • A CO level of 35ppm (parts per million )or higher is considered dangerous.
  • Combination smoke alarm and CO alarms are available.
  • Change batteries in CO detectors two times a year.
  • An occasional beep, different from the actual alarm might indicate a bad battery. If replacing the battery does not solve the problem, replace the detector.

What to do if your CO detector goes off

  • Just because you don’t feel any symptoms, CO could be present. Leave the building before serious illness or death occurs.
  • Get everyone out of the building. Assist children, elderly and the disabled in exiting.
  • Gather all family members at a predetermined meeting point away from the residence.
  • Call 9-1-1.
  • Never re-enter the home until it is deemed safe by the fire department or the gas company.

How you can protect your loved ones

  • Do not run vehicles inside structures, even if the garage door is open.
  • Have a qualified professional inspect and repair all chimneys, fireplaces, wood stoves, furnaces, and gas appliances annually.
  • Open the chimney flue when using the fireplace.
  • Never use gas or charcoal grills indoors for heat or cooking. This includes garages.