Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (abbreviated CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that bonds to the hemoglobin in your bloodstream, displacing the oxygen in your cells and can result in death.

CO is created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, CO can come from gas or oil furnaces, boilers, and water heaters, as well as vehicles, motors, and grills.

Symptoms of CO poisoning start with a mild headache, then nausea and dizziness. It can lead to collapse and unconsciousness.  At extreme levels of CO, 1-3 minutes of exposure can be fatal.

  • Have your heating system inspected yearly by a professional.
  • If you need to warm up a vehicle, be sure to move it out of your garage immediately after starting.
  • Don’t run any vehicle, fueled engine, or motor indoors, even if you have the garage door open.
  • Following a snowstorm, make sure the exhaust vents for your dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow.
  • Charcoal and gas grills can also produce CO, so make sure that they are only operated outside.
NFPA recommendations on CO detectors:
  • Install in a central area on each level of your home
  • Test monthly and replace according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
  • If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move outdoors to get fresh air. Make sure everyone gets out of the home and is accounted for. Call 911 and stay outside until the fire department arrives.
UPDATE: Wisconsin State Law on Carbon Monoxide Detectors Goes Into Effect February 1, 2011
All single family and two-unit homes, both new and existing, must install a carbon monoxide alarm on every floor level, near sleeping areas.  In new construction, alarms must be hard-wired with a battery backup, while existing homes may use any type of CO alarms – battery, plug-in, and combination smoke/CO detectors. CO detectors must bear a “UL” (Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.) mark, and should be installed according to the manufacturers instructions. For more details, check the State of Wisconsin’s website.