Carbon Monoxide: The ‘Silent Killer’

Carbon Monoxide detector
Carbon Monoxide detector

Carbon monoxide (CO), is known as the ‘silent killer’ because it is a poisonous gas that cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. Carbon moxoide is a danger year round. It comes from anything burning fuels including: furnaces, wood stoves, kerosene heaters, generators, gas-powered home appliances and tools, gas and charcoal grills, cars and trucks.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning can prevent the body from getting oxygen, and can cause flu-like symptoms such as nausea, headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, sleepiness, and weakness,” said Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert, Rockland County’s Health Commissioner. “In large amounts, carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness, brain damage or death.

Schnabel recommends several measures to keep you and your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Install CO detectors on every level of your home and within 10 feet of the entrance to all bedrooms and sleeping areas:  

  • Carbon monoxide detectors should be certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and instructions followed for installation, use, maintenance, and replacement.
  • Use battery operated or plug-in electric carbon monoxide detectors. An electric carbon monoxide detector should have a battery backup and not be plugged into an outlet controlled by a wall switch.  Check detector batteries twice a year.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors typically last for five to seven years; some have warranties for 10 years. Combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors are available.

If the alarm sounds, get out of the building. 

Take steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Never use a generator inside your home or garage, even if doors and windows are open. Only use generators outside and more than 20 feet away from the house.
  • Never use a gas range or oven for warmth.
  • Never use a charcoal grill or a barbecue grill in your home or garage. 
    Never start up or run any gasoline-powered engines such as snow blowers, generators, mowers, weed trimmers, or chain saws in enclosed spaces.
  • Never use a stove or fireplace unless it is properly installed, vented and inspected yearly. Oil and gas heat and hot water systems should also be serviced annually. 
    Never run any vehicle inside a garage attached to a house or in a detached garage even if the garage door is open. 

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning: 

  • Open all windows and doors, get out of the building and into the fresh air.
  • Call the fire department and the gas company from outside.
  • Call 911 if anyone is experiencing symptoms or take them to the emergency room, and tell the doctor you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Rockland County Healthy Neighborhood Program, a free program for low-income residents and at-risk families, helps reduce health and safety risks at home. During home visits, staff review healthy home issues, including carbon monoxide poisoning prevention and symptoms. They check carbon monoxide levels and the correct placement of carbon monoxide detectors.  After a brief home safety, products and services are given to each household based on need.  For more information, call the 845- 364-3292 or 845-364-3290. 






Issy January 12, 2014 at 12:42 PM
Unlike smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors should be installed low to the floor.
emetib January 13, 2014 at 05:43 AM
The above comment is incorrect. The specific gravity of Carbon Monoxide is .9657, i.e. slightly lighter than air. Therefore, you should install all CO detectors anywhere on a wall, but always a least 4" below the ceiling, centrally located outside all your sleeping areas, on every floor of your home, in or near any attached garage and any other location per manufacturer’s instruction. Many come with convenient electrical plugs to allow you to plug them into electrical outlets, which is fine, but that does not necessarily translate to installing them low to the floor.


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