Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that cannot be smelled or tasted. It is a byproduct of burning fuels, such as gas, petroleum, wood, coal, or charcoal.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are:
- Irregular breathing
- Stomach ache
If people in your family experience any of these symptoms while at home, feel better when away from home, and then the same symptoms return when you are back at home, it could be carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide gas can kill you in your home or other enclosed spaces like a garage or shed.
Your heating system should exhaust all of this gas out of the home but if the furnace, water heater, or chimney is not functioning correctly the combustion gases can come into the house. Kitchen stoves can also produce carbon monoxide. A kitchen fan to exhaust gas fumes to the outside should always be working when using the kitchen stove.
Safety precautions to take in your home
- Install carbon monoxide detector alarms in your home.
- Install detectors close to all bedrooms so that the alarm will wake-up your family if there is a carbon monoxide leak in your home.
- You can purchase carbon monoxide alarms at most hardware stores.
- What should you do if the alarm in the detector sounds? Take the family out of the house and call 911 from a safe place away from the home. Do not re-enter the home until it has been checked and is safe.
Because the air quality in each home is so different, homeowners are encouraged to consult with someone experienced in conducting indoor air quality investigations. If remediation and repairs are recommended, an expert can also monitor the work to assure that problems have been properly corrected.
For more information, visit the Minnesota Department of Health website or call them at 651-201-4601 or 1-800-798-9050.
Laura Au-Yeung, 1997
Richard Stone, 2006, 2010, 2014
Related publications: Carbon Monoxide – Your Safe Home, Wanda Olson and Paul Morin.
Carbon Monoxide Concerns in Cold Climate Houses NR-FO-3887, Laura Oatman, 1990.