Old man winter is gripping much of the nation and that means many consumers are turning up the heat in their homes. Some are using drastic measures to stay warm, increasing the risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning—an invisible, odorless, colorless killer. Did you know that winter is peak season for CO deaths in the United States? The deadly gas kills more than 400 people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Any heating system that burns fuel can produce deadly carbon monoxide. So if you are using portable gas generators, fireplaces, wood stoves, charcoal grills, gas heaters, kerosene heaters (PDF), gas furnaces, or other fuel burning appliances take heed.
CPSC urges you to protect yourself and your family. Don’t let carbon monoxide creep its way into your home this winter. Follow these safety tips and put the freeze on CO!
First and Foremost:
- Install CO alarms with battery backup on every level of the home and outside each sleeping area.
- Have a licensed professional inspect and service heating systems and other fuel-burning appliances in your home, including chimneys and vents, every year.
- Test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms once a month to make sure they are working.
- Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, and confusion. If you suspect CO poisoning, get outside to fresh air immediately, and then call 911.
- Make sure portable fuel burning space heaters have an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). An ODS shuts off the heater if oxygen levels start to fall to protect against CO poisoning.
- Open the fireplace damper before lighting a fire, and keep it open until the ashes are cool to avert the buildup of carbon monoxide, especially at night while families sleep.
Never Do This:
- Never use a gas oven or stove to heat your home.
- Never use kerosene space heaters in enclosed spaces; always properly ventilate.
- Never use portable generators inside the house, including in the basement, shed, or garage— generators should be outside at least 20 feet away from the house when in use.
- Don’t use charcoal or gas grills inside or operate them outside near open windows or doors.
Remember, CO can’t be seen, can’t be heard and it can’t be smelled, but can be stopped!
For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning prevention see CPSC’s CO safety center.