About Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. CO 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.1

Facts and Figures

  • Carbon monoxide is produced when fuel is burned.2
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur when fuel-burning items go unvented or are poorly vented which can include furnaces, space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, gas ovens and dryers and exhaust fumes.2
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning is sometimes misdiagnosed as food poisoning, heart disease, stroke or migraine headache.3
  • More than 500 people in the United States die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning each year.4
  • 986 people were unintentionally poisoned by carbon monoxide in Michigan in 2010, including 26 fatally.5


The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. High levels of CO inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death. Unless suspected, CO poisoning can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic other illnesses. People who are sleeping or intoxicated can die from CO poisoning before ever experiencing symptoms.6

Gain Control: Actions You Can Take

To help prevent health and safety risks due to carbon monoxide, see below for suggested actions you can take7:

  • Install and maintain CO alarms inside your home to provide early warning of carbon monoxide. CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each separate sleeping area, on every level of the home.
  • Have fuel-burning heating equipment (fireplaces, furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves, coal stoves, space heaters and portable heaters) and chimneys inspected by a professional every year.
  • Open the damper for proper ventilation before using a fireplace.
  • Never use your oven or stovetop to heat your home.
  • When purchasing new heating and cooking equipment, select products tested and labeled by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Make sure all fuel-burning vented equipment is vented to the outside. Keep the venting for exhaust clear and unblocked.
  • If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Never run a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open.
  • Only use barbecue grills outside, away from all doors, windows, vents and other building openings. Some grills can produce CO gas. Never use grills inside the home or the garage, even if the doors are open.
  • Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from all doors, windows, vents and other building openings to prevent exhaust fumes from entering the home.

Local Resources for Detroit Residents

For contact information of partner organizations that might be able to provide help with carbon monoxide hazards in your home, visit our Get Help page.


1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (http://www.cdc.gov/co/default.htm)
2American Lung Association: Carbon Monoxide Indoors (http://www.lung.org/healthy-air/home/resources/carbon-monoxide-indoors.html)
3Department of Health & Hospitals – State of Louisiana: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and the Environment (http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/epht/CO/InfoTabFinal.pdf)
4Encyclopedia of Children’s Health: Carbon monoxide poisoning (http://www.healthofchildren.com/C/Carbon-Monoxide-Poisoning.html)
5Michigan State University, Abdallah, M., Rosenman, K.D., Reilly. M.J. & Michigan Department of Community Health. (2012). 2010 Annual Report on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning In Michigan. (https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/2010_COreport_FINAL_397811_7.pdf)
6Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Carbon Monoside Poisoning: Frequently Asked Questions (http://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm)
7U.S. Fire Administration: Exposing an Invisible Killer: The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide (http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/co/fswy17.shtm)