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Posted on: January 1, 2021

Carbon Monoxide Safety

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Although the popularity of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms has been growing in recent years, it cannot be assumed that everyone is familiar with the hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.

Often called the invisible killer, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

  • The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim's health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body's ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.
  • A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.
  • In 2016, local fire departments responded to an estimated 79,600 carbon monoxide incidents, or an average of nine such calls per hour. This does not include the 91,400 carbon monoxide alarm malfunctions and the 68,000 unintentional carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Data from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Center for Health Statistics shows that in 2017, 399 people died of unintentional non-fire carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Source: NFPA's Applied Research Division

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