Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Carbon monoxide is called an ‘invisible killer’

What is carbon monoxide?

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that has no odor or color, making it impossible to see, taste or smell. At lower levels, according to the government, “CO causes mild effects that are often mistaken for the flu.” Symptoms can include headaches, vertigo, nausea and fatigue. At higher levels, it can kill before anyone in the residence is even aware it is present.

Federal statistics show carbon monoxide poisoning kills more than 500 people a year. Another 15,000 victims are hospitalized each year.

Where does carbon monoxide come from?

The government says carbon monoxide comes from many sources, including gas-fired appliances such as furnaces and water heaters, as well as car exhaust, charcoal grills and even wood-burning fireplaces.

How can I protect myself?

Carbon monoxide detectors are available at a wide range of discount and home improvement stores, ranging from less than $20 to around $50 each. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends at least one alarm installed near sleeping areas and outside bedrooms. In addition, residents should have a professional inspection of all fuel-burning appliances and chimneys each year.

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