Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas. You cannot see, taste or smell carbon monoxide. It is released when fuels such as wood, oil or gasoline, are not burned completely.
These appliances emit CO during regular use, and it may become a problem when there is a leak from the vent that carries CO out of the home, or when an appliance or a piece of equipment malfunctions or is poorly ventilated.
Portable generators are also a source of carbon monoxide. Although mostly used during power outages, generators are also popular for camping and other outdoor activities.
CO detectors are another way to protect your family from being exposed to dangerous levels of CO gas. CO detectors function like smoke detectors to warn you before CO concentrations reach dangerous levels. Every home in Illinois is required by law to have a carbon monoxide detector. Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for more information on CO detectors.
Early symptoms of CO poisoning — including headache, nausea, vomiting and dizziness — can mimic the flu or other illnesses. More significant poisoning symptoms also can include:
Severe poisonings can cause convulsions, unconsciousness, brain damage and even death. CO poisoning usually occurs slowly over a period of several hours; however, at very high concentrations, CO can kill in minutes.
If you think someone may have been exposed to carbon monoxide, fresh air is the most important treatment. Open the windows wide and help the victim outside. Once you are out of immediate danger, call IPC at 1-800-222-1222 for treatment advice.