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Information: (650) 851-1594

Carbon Monoxide Safety

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, also known as CO, is called the “Invisible Killer” because it's a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. More than 150 people in the Unites States die every year from accidental nonfire-related CO poisoning associated with consumer products, including generators. Other products include faulty, improperly-used or incorrectly-vented fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stoves, water heaters and fireplaces. Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission

Know the symptoms of CO poisoning

Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission

Because CO is odorless, colorless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed. The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:

  • Mental confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of muscular coordination
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Ultimately death

Handout: carbon monoxide safety

carbon monoxide safety handout

Download this handout (PDF, 844 Kb)

Outreach materials from the U.S. Fire Administration

Public service announcement: winter fire safety



Outreach materials from other organizations

The U.S. Fire Administration recommends the following organizations as trusted and reliable sources for free outreach materials you can use to help increase awareness about carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Statistical reports, safety tips, fact sheet, and an educational video to help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. 
    The National Fire Protection Association helps to reduce fire loss through consensus codes and standards, research, training and education.
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Carbon Monoxide Information Center: Statistics, public service announcements, safety tips, and consumer product recalls related to carbon monoxide and portable generators.
    The CPSC is a U.S. federal agency that protects the public from injury or death associated with the use of consumer products.

CPSC carbon monoxide poster contest

CPSC is sponsoring a poster contest for middle school students to help warn people about the dangers of carbon monoxide. If your fire department plans to visit middle schools this Fall, be sure to let students and teachers know about the contest. The deadline for entries is February 27, 2015. More information about the contest is available on the CPSC website.

Video: how close is too close for portable generators?

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

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