Carbon monoxide (CO) is a clear, odorless gas that is a by-product of
combustion of fuels like natural gas, liquid propane (LP), coal, oil and
wood. It is poisonous to humans and pets. Each year, more than
10,000 Americans are disabled by accidental exposure to carbon monoxide.
Between 1992 and 1996, the number of non-fire CO poisoning deaths (excluding
death by motor vehicle exhaust) averaged about 544 per year.
The majority of CO poisoning deaths were connected with the use of household
heating systems.1 Other consumer products that contribute to CO
poisoning deaths include charcoal grills, gas water heaters, camping equipment,
and gas ranges. Between 1994 and 1998, approximately 10,600 people
were treated in hospital for CO poisoning injuries associated only with consumer
products. Therefore, it is important to have heating systems and other gas
appliances inspected annually not only for efficiency but more importantly for
Installing Your CO Detector
Homes with gas heating systems should have CO detectors, clear and
simple. A detector should be placed on each level of your home and
especially near bedrooms or sleeping areas. CO detectors can be mounted at
any height and should be placed at least 20 feet away from any fuel burning
appliances, and at least 10 feet away from kitchens and bathrooms. If your
CO alarm is triggered exit the house immediately and call emergency
services. Do not re-enter the home until a professional has completed a
thorough inspection for the source of the excess CO.
Carbon Monoxide Detector
It is now possible to determine if your CO detector is working by using a
special testing device found at local hardware stores. These devices
simulate carbon monoxide by using a small tablet that when moistened releases a
non-toxic gas. If the detector is working properly the alarm will
should go off.
With regular inspections of your gas burning appliances and heating systems
and the installation of a carbon monoxide detector, death and injury from CO
poisoning can be prevented.
1 Estimates of Non-fire CO Poisoning Deaths and
Injuries; Executive Summary; U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; June 1999