Lifesaving Tips to Protect Against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Keeping furnace vents clear of debris will help to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Keeping furnace vents clear of debris will help to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

The crisp, cool air and the brightly-colored leaves are among the first signs that fall is coming. They’re also one of the first signals as families start up their furnaces across Michigan. While the heat is necessary to keep your homes cozy during the cold months, it’s an especially important time to protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Governor Rick Snyder has declared this week Carbon Monoxide Safety and Awareness Week in Michigan. This declaration serves as a reminder for residents to take preventative measures and learn to recognize the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Silent Killer

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas that’s odorless, colorless and tasteless and is produced when common household appliances aren’t properly ventilated. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur from appliances like:

  • Furnaces
  • Fireplaces
  • Wood Stoves
  • Charcoal grills
  • Kerosene heaters
  • Gasoline-powered generators
  • Vehicles


Know the Signs

Infants, the elderly, people with respiratory problems and pets are especially at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. When the deadly gas is breathed into the body, it is combined with the blood, preventing it from absorbing oxygen. Warning signs of a CO leak include:

  • Stale/stuffy air
  • Excessive moisture on windows and walls
  • Soot buildup around appliance vents

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning often mimic the flu and include headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath and burning of the eyes. Prolonged exposure can cause disorientation, convulsions, unconsciousness and eventually death.


9 Tips to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

There are many different ways CO can cause poisoning, even uncommonly through blocked vehicle tailpipes and unventilated trailers. You can protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning with these tips:

  1. Install an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approved CO detector with a powerful audible alarm. The best models plug into a standard electrical outlet and have important features like a rechargeable battery backup in case of a power outage.
  2. Make sure fuel-burning appliances are properly installed and have them maintained regularly.
  3. Visually inspect flues and chimneys on an annual basis to keep them clean of debris.
  4. Repair rusted or pitted flue pipes leading from your furnace and water heater to the chimney.
  5. Keep the furnace air intake clear and unobstructed.
  6. Never use a gas range or unvented space heaters (propane, gas, oil or kerosene) to heat a home or building.
  7. Never run a vehicle in the garage, even with the garage door open.
  8. Start lawn mowers and snow blowers outside, not inside the garage.
  9. Never use a portable generator or barbecue grill inside your home or on an enclosed porch or garage.

If you suspect CO poisoning in your home:

  • Get everyone (pets included) out of the house and into fresh air
  • Call 911 for immediate medical help
  • Do not re-enter the house under any circumstance until help has arrived, your house has been investigated and the problem is corrected
  • Call a qualified contractor or your gas utility to have your appliances checked