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Identifying the 'Silent Killer'  

Safety Tips to Protect Your Family from the Dangers of CO Poisoning

It's silent, deadly and lurks in the home while your family sleeps. Dubbed the "silent killer," the colorless, odorless and poisonous gas - carbon monoxide (CO) - kills 500 people and sends 20,000 more to the hospital each year.

CO is produced and emitted by incomplete burning of fuel, such as propane, kerosene, gasoline, oil, natural gas, wood and charcoal; and because it is odorless and colorless, people can be exposed to CO without even knowing it. However, CO poisoning is avoidable and preventable if the necessary safety measures are taken. UL recommends a three-part strategy that consumers can easily employ to protect themselves and their loved ones from the poisonous gas: INSPECT, PROTECT and DETECT.


  • Don't forget to inspect! Fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, hot water heaters and stoves require yearly maintenance. Over time, components can become damaged or deteriorate. Have a qualified technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances once a year as they can identify and repair problems with your fuel-burning appliances.


  • Protect your family, especially while they sleep. Purchase and install UL-LISTED CO alarms outside each sleeping area, including the basement and any other locations required by applicable laws. Read the manufacturer's instructions carefully before installing a CO alarm. The UL-LISTING on a CO alarm means the product has been found free of foreseeable hazards and is safer for your family.
  • Is your CO alarm installed in the right place? Do not place a CO alarm within five feet of household chemicals. And, avoid placing your alarm directly on top of or near fuel-burning appliances as these appliances will emit some CO when initially turned-on.

  • Make sure you test, so your alarm works the best! Test and replace the battery in your CO alarm at least once a year. If your alarm is wired directly into your home's electrical system, you should test it monthly. If your unit operates off of a battery, test the alarm monthly and replace the battery at least once a year.

  • Know the signs of potential CO poisoning. CO poisoning may be the cause of flu-like symptoms such as headaches, tightness of chest, dizziness, fatigue, confusion and breathing difficulties. Because CO poisoning often causes a victim's blood pressure to rise, the victim's skin may take on a pink or red cast.


  • If your CO alarm goes off - GET OUT - quickly and safely! Practice a CO safety escape plan with your family so everyone knows how to react to a CO alarm. If your alarm sounds, evacuate the building and call the fire department. If you or your loved ones experience symptoms of CO poisoning - headache, dizziness or other flu-like symptoms - seek medical attention immediately. And, when you return home, be sure to open windows and doors for ventilation. Then, call a qualified technician to inspect your appliances.

  • Be alert, don't get hurt! Streaks of carbon or soot around the service door of your fuel-burning appliances, moisture collecting on the windows and walls of furnace rooms and fallen soot from the fireplace or small amounts of water leaking from the base of the chimney are all signs of a CO problem in your home.