Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced by incomplete burning of solid, liquid and gaseous fuels. Appliances fueled with natural gas, propane, oil, kerosene, coal, or wood may produce CO2. Burning charcoal or running your car can both produce CO2.
Every year, more than 200 people in the U.S. die from CO2 produced by fuel-burning appliances (furnaces, ranges, water heaters, room heaters). Several thousand people go to the hospital emergency rooms for treatment for Co2 poisoning. Recently a couple from the Jamestown area was rushed to the hospital for treatment of CO2 poisoning.
Initial symptoms of CO2 poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, poor coordination and dizziness. Carbon monoxide is dangerous because a person may not recognize drowsiness a symptom of poisoning. Someone with mild poisoning can go to sleep and continue to breathe the carbon monoxide until severe poisoning or death occurs. Most people who develop mild carbon monoxide poisoning recover quickly when moved into fresh air. Moderate or severe carbon monoxide poisoning causes confusion, unconsciousness, chest pain, shortness of breath and coma and can be fatal.
At the start of the heating season, it is important to check your CO2 detectors to make sure the batteries are working properly. You should also have your heating system (including chimneys and vents) inspected and service annually. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections and loose connections. Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers for heating your home. Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room with closed doors or windows or in any room where people are sleeping. Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent.
Install a CO detector/alarm that meets the requirements of the current UL standard 2034 or the requirements of the IAS6-96 standard. A detector/alarm should be installed in the hallway near every sleeping area of the home. Make sure the detector cannot be covered up by furniture or draperies and should be hung on a wall up high and plugged into a wall receptacle. Never ignore an alarming CO detector/alarm. If the detector/alarm goes off, operate the reset button, call 911 and move outside to fresh air or by an open door/window until help arrives.