MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho — Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is called the “Invisible Killer” because it’s a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. More than 400 people in the United States die every year from accidental non-fire-related CO poisoning associated with consumer products.
Products include faulty, improperly used or incorrectly vented fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stoves, water heaters, fireplaces and generators. CO gas can build up in your garage if you have your car running in or around it. This is especially common in colder months when people warm them up or defrost their windows.
To decrease the risk of CO poisoning in your home:
• Never use a generator or other fuel-burning appliance in the home unless it is properly vented
• Inspect your furnace, stoves, water heaters and fireplaces on a yearly basis
• Drive your vehicle away from your garage as soon as possible after starting the engine, and ensure the garage door is closed fully
• Don’t warm up your vehicle by letting it idle in the garage
Because CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know they’re being exposed. The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu, but without a fever:
• Shortness of breath
High-level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms:
• Mental confusion
• Loss of muscular coordination
• Loss of consciousness
• Redness of skin
• Ultimately, death
If you have symptoms that you think could be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the area right away, and call 911 or have someone take you to the emergency room.