Carbon Monoxide Dangers
900 University Boulevard North
Jacksonville, Florida 32211
As Floridians begin the task of preparing for a tropical storm or hurricane, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) is urging the public to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) exposure by taking precautions with gas-powered appliances and charcoal or gas grills.
Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous, invisible, odorless, tasteless gas and is highly poisonous. Depending on the level of exposure, CO may cause fatigue, weakness, chest pains for those with heart disease, shortness of breath upon exertion, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, impaired vision, loss of consciousness, and in severe cases, death.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen in the blood to the rest of the body and is highly poisonous.
DOH recommends the following precautions to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:
- Do not burn charcoal or gas grills inside a house, garage, vehicle, tent or fireplace.
- NEVER use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially enclosed areas, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home.
- ALWAYS locate the unit outdoors on a dry surface, away from doors, windows, vents, and air conditioning equipment that could allow CO to come indoors. Follow the instructions that come with your generator.
- Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. The CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for CO alarms (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, or CSA 6.19.01).
- Test your CO alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.
- REMEMBER: you cannot see or smell CO and portable generators can produce high levels of CO very quickly.
- If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY. DO NOT DELAY.
- If you have a poisoning emergency, call your nearest Florida Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call 911 immediately.
What Are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Depending on the level of exposure, CO may cause fatigue, weakness, chest pains for those with heart disease, shortness of breath upon exertion, nausea, vomiting, headaches, confusion, lack of coordination, impaired vision, loss of consciousness, and in severe cases death.
What Should You Do If You Think You Have CO Poisoning?
If you think you are suffering from CO) poisoning, you should get fresh air immediately. Turn off all combustion appliances and leave the house. Go to an emergency room. Be sure to tell the physician that you suspect CO poisoning. Don’t ignore symptoms, especially if more than one person is feeling them. In cases of severe CO poisoning, call 911 emergency services or the Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.
What Can Be Done to Prevent CO Poisoning?
To prevent CO poisoning, ensure that all household combustion appliances (fireplaces, stoves, water heaters, furnaces) are properly adjusted and working to manufacturers’ instructions and local building codes. Make sure the exhaust of stoves and heaters are vented to the outside and do not leak.
Do not use ovens and gas ranges to heat your home. Do not burn charcoal inside a home, cabin, recreational vehicle, or camper, and never leave a car or lawn mower engine running in a shed or garage, or in any enclosed or partially enclose space. NEVER use gas-powered generators or pressure washers inside any building or structure. Ventilating a building or structure will not prevent the buildup of life threatening levels of CO. Do not locate portable generators or portable gasoline engines near any opening of the house (e.g., windows, doors, window air conditioners, and exhaust vents).
What About Carbon Monoxide Alarms?
Consider installing CO alarms in your home. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends the installation of CO alarms in every home. Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery backup according to manufacturer’s installation instructions. The CO alarm should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for CO alarms (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, CSA 6.19.01).
REMEMBER: CO alarms can be used as a backup but not as a replacement for proper use, placement and maintenance of your fuel-burning appliances or gas-powered portable equipment. Also, understand that CO alarms are designed to sound an alert at fairly high levels. Lower level CO exposure below the alarm threshold could still contribute to adverse health effects in susceptible individuals (e.g., persons with heart or lung disease).