As the weather begins to cool, families across Michigan will soon begin turning on furnaces and lighting fires in the fireplace to stay cozy and warm. With the necessary comfort of heat an unwelcome and uninvited guest can also enter the home: an odorless, colorless and often deadly gas that comes from these appliances and heat sources of the home that can be deadly. Read more on carbon monoxide and how to protect yourself and your family below.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, or ‘CO’, is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced any time you burn fuel via cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it.

Who is at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning?

Everyone is at risk for poisoning, but infants, the elderly, people with anemia, chronic heart disease or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO. More than 400 Americans die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning and more than 20,000 emergency room visits each year are caused because of CO.

How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in the home?

While CO is indeed colorless and odorless, CO detectors quickly identify when there’s a leak or dangerous amounts of CO in the air and warn you to get out. Install a battery-operated detector and install it where you can still hear it if you’re sleeping such as outside your bedroom. It’s recommended to replace your CO detector every five years.

The CDC offers more great tips here, which include having your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.

How can I prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in the car?

Similar to your home, it’s important to have your vehicle serviced regularly (for many reasons in addition to checking for CO!). A small leak in the exhaust system can lead to a buildup of CO inside the car.

Remember to never run your vehicles inside an attached residential garage, even if the garage door is open. Always keep the garage door open when the car is running in a detached garage to let in fresh air. If you drive a car or SUV with a tailgate, when you open the tailgate open the vents or windows to make sure air is moving through. If only the tailgate is open, CO from the exhaust will be pulled into the car or SUV.

These are just a few of the many ways to protect yourself and your family from a potential carbon monoxide poisoning. Check out our other Your Power blogs for more great tips.


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