Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO), often called the “silent killer,” is responsible for more than 500 deaths in the U.S. each year.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, colorless gas, which can cause sudden illness and death, is produced any time a fossil fuel is burned. Fossil fuels include propane, natural gas, oil, kerosene, wood, charcoal or coal. Portable generators, cars, lawn mowers and other equipment powered by internal combustion engines produce CO.

The danger occurs when too much CO accumulates in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces. When a person breathes in CO, the gas combines with the body’s blood and prevents it from absorbing oxygen. High levels of CO inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death.

What are the Symptoms of CO Poisoning?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Unless suspected, CO poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses, such as the flu. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing  symptoms.

Guidelines to Prevent CO Exposure

Last year, a Hunterdon County couple died of CO poisoning from a gas-powered generator they operated in their enclosed garage. Accidental CO poisoning resulting from the use of generators is unfortunately too common, especially after power outages. Never use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside a building or garage. Place the generator outside where exhaust fumes will not enter enclosed spaces and away from windows or any air-intakes to your building.

In addition, please follow the guidelines below to avoid Carbon Monoxide exposure:

  • Install battery-operated CO detectors in all of your buildings, and check or replace the batteries when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
  • Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • If you suspect a problem with an appliance at any point throughout the year, play it safe and have a qualified service technician check it out.
  • Inspect and clean chimneys annually.
  • If the CO detector sounds, leave the building immediately and call 911.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseous.
  • Do not run a car or truck inside a garage attached to a dwelling, even if you leave the door open.
  • Do not burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.
  • Do not heat your house with a gas oven. 

New Jersey Law

New Jersey Law requires the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in single and two-family homes upon initial occupancy or change of occupancy.

Every unit of dwelling space in a hotel or multiple dwelling must be equipped with one or more carbon monoxide sensor devices, unless it is determined that no potential carbon monoxide hazard exists for that unit.
In addition, every unit of a rooming or boarding house must be equipped with one or more carbon monoxide devices, unless it is determined that no potential carbon monoxide hazard exists for that unit.

What to Do if You Suspect Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning, do the following:
Get fresh air immediately and call 911, and/or
 call the New Jersey Poison Control Center at 800-POISON-1 (800-764-7661)