Carbon Monoxide (CO) Fact Sheet

CARBON MONOXIDE:
A highly toxic gas found in automobile exhaust and where heating equipment venting problems exist. CO is a colorless, odorless (but sometimes it combines with other gases that have sharp odors) and tasteless - VERY HARD TO DETECT.

CAUSES:
Malfunctioning heating equipment, blocked chimneys due to fallen leaves, birds' nests, fossil fuel buildup, enclosed heating equipment with limited ventilation, indoor use of barbecue grills, use of cooking appliances for heating purposes, sitting inside a motionless vehicle for a prolonged period of time with the motor running, repairing engines (lawnmowers, snowblowers, vehicles, etc.) without proper ventilation.

PRECAUTIONS:
Check your chimney/furnace every fall for blockage, have your chimney cleaned annually, if your home undergoes any major renovation, if you heavily insulate or if you enclose heating equipment to gain additional living space: CHECK TO SEE IF EXTRA VENTILATION IS NEEDED, have heating appliances checked for malfunctioning, have your vehicle's muffler and tailpipe inspected regularly for carbon monoxide leaks, periodically check your burner for a hot draft backing out.

DANGER SIGNS:
Stuffy, stale or smelly air, very high humidity, fallen soot from the fireplace or furnace, no draft in your chimney or a hot draft backing out.

TAKE ACTION:
If you encounter danger signs - open windows and doors, evacuate everyone immediately, from a neighbor's house call the local fire department, your oil dealer for oil-burning equipment, your gas company for gas burning equipment or the Massachusetts Poison Control System at 781-232-2120.

CO POISONING SYMPTOMS*:
Headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting or loss of muscle control, tightening of the chest, convulsions, redness of the eyes, sleepiness, fluttering of the heart, confusion, ringing in the ears, prolonged exposure can lead to UNCONSCIOUSNESS, BRAIN DAMAGE OR DEATH. *Victims may experience one, some or all of the symptoms.

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