Skip Global navigation and goto content

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Environmental Health


As the weather turns cooler and people start using their heaters to warm their homes, the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning increases. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless and colorless gas that is formed when fuel is burned. Battery operated CO detectors are sold at most stores that sell smoke alarms. CO detectors work by sounding a warning alarm when there are dangerous levels of the poisonous gas.

There are many sources of carbon monoxide poisoning that are associated with heating your home, including:
  • Fireplaces
  • Furnaces
  • Gas stoves
  • Leaking chimneys
  • Unvented kerosene and gas space heaters
  • Wood stoves
  • Charcoal grills

To prevent the gas from reaching deadly levels, you can make sure your fuel-burning appliances and/or equipment are properly vented. Always open the flue when the fireplace is in use, and wood burning stoves and kerosene heaters should be properly vented to the outdoors. Trained technicians should periodically inspect furnaces and fireplace chimneys.

The use of generators is prevalent after weather events that cause power outages, like tropical storms. Generators quickly produce high CO levels that may cause death. Never use a generator indoors or in a partially enclosed space like a garage. Opening doors and windows with the use of a fan will not prevent CO poisoning. Always locate generators outdoors away from doors, windows, vents that attach to the side of your house, and air conditions units that could pull the CO indoors.

Never leave an automobile running in a closed garage or in a garage attached to the house, even with the garage door open. While driving, keep the rear window or tailgate of a vehicle closed, as carbon monoxide from the exhaust can be pulled inside.

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms may include dizziness, weakness, headache, irregular breathing, and nausea.

If you suspect you are experiencing any symptoms of CO poisoning, get fresh air immediately, open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and go outside.

In cases of severe CO poisoning, call 911 emergency services or call the nearest Florida Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222.