You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels it can kill a person in minutes. Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced whenever any fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood, or charcoal is burned. If appliances that burn fuel are maintained and used properly, the amount of CO produced is usually not hazardous. However, if appliances are not working properly or are used incorrectly, dangerous levels of CO can result.

Hundreds of people die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances. Even more die from CO produced by idling cars. Unborn babies, infants, elderly people, and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be especially susceptible.

What you can do to make your family safe from carbon monoxide?


  • Have your fuel-burning appliances — including oil and gas furnaces, gas water heaters, gas ranges and ovens, gas dryers, gas or kerosene space heaters, fireplaces, and wood stoves — inspected by a trained professional at the beginning of every heating season. Make certain that the flues and chimneys are free of gaps, in good condition, and not blocked.
  • When buying new fuel burning appliances, consider only those appliances that can be vented to the outdoors.
  • Avoid idling your car in the garage. Even with the garage door open, carbon monoxide gas can quickly build within the enclosed space.
  • Don’t use gas appliances for purposes in which they were not intended. An example would be using you gas oven to heat a room in your home.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in several locations throughout your home and check that they are functioning properly on a regular basis. Carbon monoxide detectors are an essential item in any home, but they should not be considered an alternative to proper maintenance of home appliances and fireplaces.