Carbon Monoxide Alert
Carbon Monoxide Alert
Bureau of Environmental Health
Carbon Monoxide and the Environment:
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless gas. CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those made by cars and trucks, portable generators, stoves, gas ranges, and heating systems. CO from these fumes can build up in places that do not have a good flow of fresh air. Breathing high levels of CO can cause severe illness or death in a matter of minutes.
Although carbon monoxide poisoning can almost always be prevented, every year, about 450 people in the United States die as a result of accidental, non-fire related exposure to this toxic gas. Each year nearly 20,000 people across the United States require emergency medical care for non-fatal carbon monoxide poisoning.
In Kansas over 500 people have been hospitalized and 4 people have died from CO poisoning over the past 10 years. Men are four times more likely to be poisoned by CO due to risks taken when working in enclosed areas were internal combustion engines or improperly vented heating devices are operated.
Exposure and Risk:
Breathing high levels of CO can cause severe illness or death in a matter of minutes. You may be exposed to unsafe levels of CO as the result of:
- Using poorly maintained or unvented heating equipment;
- Warming up vehicles in garages or other enclosed spaces;
- Using a gas stove or oven to heat the home;
- Leaving chimneys clogged or blocking heating exhaust vents;
- Running generators or gas-powered tools in enclosed areas or near windows, doors, or vents;
- Using a propane camp stove, heater, or light inside a tent; and
- Engaging in activities near boat engine exhaust outlets.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable. There are several things you can do to ensure you and your family are safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- DO have your fuel-burning appliances -- including oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves -- inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season. Make certain that the flues and chimneys are connected, in good condition, and not blocked.
- DO choose appliances that vent their fumes to the outside whenever possible, have them properly installed, and maintain them according to manufacturers' instructions.
- DO read and follow all of the instructions that accompany any fuel-burning device. If you cannot avoid using an unvented gas or kerosene space heater, carefully follow the cautions that come with the device. Use the proper fuel and keep doors to the rest of the house open. Crack a window to ensure enough air for ventilation and proper fuel-burning.
- DO install a battery-powered CO detector (or electric-powered device with battery backup) in your home, near all sleeping areas. As with smoke detectors, replace the battery when changing the time on clocks each spring and fall. If the alarm sounds, leave your home immediately and call 9-1-1.
- DON’T idle the car in a garage -- even if the garage door to the outside is open. Fumes can build up very quickly in the garage and living area of your home.
- DON’T use a gas oven to heat your home, even for a short time.
- DON’T ever use a charcoal grill indoors -- even in a fireplace.
- DON'T sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
- DON’T use any gasoline-powered engines (mowers, weed trimmers, snow blowers, chain saws, small engines or generators) in enclosed spaces.
- DON’T ignore symptoms, particularly if more than one person is feeling them.
Symptoms and Health Effects:
Breathing CO can cause headache, dizziness, and nausea. If CO levels are high enough, a person may become unconscious or die.
Exposure to moderate and high levels of carbon monoxide over long periods of time has also been linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Survivors of severe carbon monoxide poisoning may suffer long term neurological problems.
For More information:
KDHE Bureau of Environmental Health:
Phone number: 785-296-5606