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Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, colorless, odorless gas that interferes with the delivery of oxygen throughout the body. Sources of carbon monoxide include:
  • unvented kerosene and gas space heaters
  • leaking chimneys and furnaces
  • back-drafting from furnaces
  • gas water heaters
  • woodstoves and fireplaces
  • gas stoves
  • automobile exhaust from cars in attached garages.
Fetuses, infants, elderly people and people with anemia or with a history of heart or respiratory disease can be affected more quickly by carbon monoxide. At lower levels, carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms: headaches, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath and fatigue. At higher levels, or with prolonged exposure, it can cause confusion, disorientation, impaired vision and coordination, vomiting, brain damage, coma and death.

Ways to Reduce Risk
  • Make sure that all fuel-burning appliances and heating devices are properly vented and maintained.
  • Above gas stoves, install and use an exhaust fan that is vented to outdoors.
  • During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow build-up.
  • Be sure flues are open when fireplaces are in use.
  • Choose properly sized woodstoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all woodstoves fit tightly.
  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up your central heating system (furnaces, flues and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
  • Do not idle car inside the garage.

Install and Maintain CO Alarms
A variety of carbon monoxide alarms, both plug-in and battery-powered, are available at hardware, home and discount stores. Read packages carefully and compare features. Look for information stating that the alarm meets Underwriters Laboratories standards. Read the owner's manual completely and be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding installation.

Minnesota law requires that all single family and multi-family dwellings install an approved carbon monoxide alarm within ten feet of each bedroom.

What to Do if the Carbon Monoxide Alarm Sounds
If the alarm sounds and anyone is feeling symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, your home may have a potentially dangerous level. Leave the house immediately. Call the fire department, local emergency medical services, poison center, or local utility company from a neighbor's home. If the alarm sounds and no one is feeling any symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, ventilate the home by opening windows and doors and turning on fans. Turn off any combustion appliances immediately. Then call an appliance repair technician to find the cause of the alarm.

For more information about carbon monoxide and carbon monoxide alarm contact the Minnesota Safety Council.

Environmental Protection Agency
Minnesota Department of Health
CenterPoint Energy
Xcel Energy