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Public Health Preparedness Home > Chemical Agents > Carbon Monoxide Facts about Carbon Monoxide

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (referred to sometimes as CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled.

Where is carbon monoxide found?

Carbon monoxide is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by cars and trucks, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, and gas ranges and heating systems.  Carbon monoxide from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces.  People and animals in these spaces can be poisoned by breathing CO.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.  High levels of carbon monoxide inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and even death. 

What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

  • Get fresh air immediately.
  • Open windows and doors for more ventilation, turn off any combustion appliances, and leave the house.
  • Call 911.
  • Before turning your fuel-burning appliance back on, make sure a qualified service technician checks and approves its use.

Who is at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning?

All people and animals are at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.  Certain groups—unborn babies, infants, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems—are more susceptible.  Each year, more than 500 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and more than 2,000 commit suicide by intentional carbon monoxide poisoning.

How can I help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning?

Never use generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, basement, garage, or camper or even outside near an open window.  Never allow your car to idle within a closed garage.
Have at least one working carbon monoxide detector in your home. Check the detector’s batteries twice each year, at the same time you check smoke detector batteries.

For more information, please contact:

  • Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) at 317.351.7190, ext. 260
  • Indiana Poison Center toll-free at 1.800.222.1222
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at www.epa.gov/iaq/co.html

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