Alexander Martin Rowland Foundation

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the United States. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, "there are approximately 2,100 unintentional deaths from carbon monoxide (CO) every year in the U.S. and the use of CO Alarms could potentially prevent many of these fatalities." In addition, more than 10,000 CO injuries occur annually from this colorless, odorless and tasteless poison.

Carbon monoxide (CO) can be produced when burning any fuel: gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, wood and coal. It is the product of incomplete combustion. Carbon monoxide can kill in minutes or hours depending on the level of CO in the air.

If CO is inhaled at damaging levels it can lead to breathing difficulties, impaired judgment and memory, damage to the nervous system, cardiac trauma, brain damage, coma and even death.

Everyone is susceptible, but experts agree that unborn babies, young children, pregnant women, senior citizens and people with heart or respiratory problems are especially vulnerable and are at the highest risk for death or serious injury.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide:

Initial symptoms are similar to the flu with no fever. Dizziness, fatigue/weakness, throbbing headache, nausea/vomiting, irregular breathing, sleepiness and confusion can all be possible symptoms.

Potential sources of carbon monoxide:

Any fuel burning appliance that is malfunctioning or improperly installed can be a source of CO. These can include furnaces, gas range/stove, gas clothes dryer, water heater, gas or wood fireplaces, wood-burning stove and auto exhaust from an attached garage. Other sources include clogged chimneys or flues, vent pipes, fuel burning space heaters, tools that run on fuel in an area that is not vented, a gas or charcoal grill used in an enclosed area, certain types of swimming pool heaters, boats and RV's. Back drafting and changes in air pressure can cause indoor levels of CO.

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