January 2010
Five Carbon Monoxide Myths

MYTH: If there is carbon monoxide (CO) present in my home, I will be able to smell it or taste it.

TRUTH: CO is called the "silent killer" because it is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas. The only way to know if it could be a danger to you is to have a UL listed CO detector in your home. They are designed to sound an alarm before the CO level is high enough to present a hazard.

MYTH: I don't need a CO detector in my house if I don't have gas heat.

TRUTH: CO can come from several gas appliances, including dryers, ranges, water heaters and furnaces. It can also come from clogged chimney flues, or from leaving your vehicle running in an attached garage. If there is any potential for CO poisoning in your home, you should have a CO detector.

MYTH: If I have a smoke detector, the alarm will go off if CO is present.

TRUTH: Smoke and CO are two completely different substances; therefore, a smoke detector will not go off if there is CO in your home. Only a CO detector can alert you to dangerous levels of CO in your home. There are some combination smoke/CO detectors on the market. Check your local home improvement store if you are interested in combination detectors.

MYTH: It's normal to have small levels of CO in my home, and it can't hurt me.

TRUTH: The effects CO has on you depend on the level of CO in your home and the length of exposure, combined with your health condition. Babies, children, elderly persons, pregnant women and pets are generally more sensitive to CO.

MYTH: Carbon monoxide has no long-term side effects.

TRUTH: CO can cause brain damage or even death, so CO poisoning should always be treated as a serious problem. If your CO detector goes off or you feel that you may be suffering from CO poisoning, call 911 immediately.