Can Carbon Monoxide Be In Your Home?

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department

News Release 13-111
Date:  October 11, 2013

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odorless, tasteless, toxic gas. It causes about 300 accidental fatalities in homes each year; thousands more are treated in hospitals for CO poisoning.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning exposure include: headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and confused thinking (victims do not think clearly enough to get assistance). Without treatment, the victim will lose consciousness and possibly their life. Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete combustion of fuels.

Common carbon monoxide causes include:

  • Faulty gas or oil furnaces and water heaters.
  • Using a generator inside or too close to windows.
  • Cracked chimney flues.
  • Indoor use of charcoal grills.
  • Use of a gas oven or range to warm a room.
  • Running a car in an enclosed area.
  • Closing the fireplace damper before the fire is completely out.

Carbon monoxide accidents are preventable. Actions you should take to protect your family include:

  • Have a qualified technician inspect your gas furnace and appliances.
  • Never allow your car to run in an enclosed area, especially if it is attached to your house.
  • Make sure your fireplace is in good repair and do not close the damper before the fire is out.
  • Install CO alarms to give your family a warning if CO is building up in your house.

Carbon Monoxide alarms can be purchased at many local hardware stores. Ensure the alarm that you purchase has an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label. Carbon Monoxide alarms should be located on every floor and mounted according to the manufacturer's instructions. If the alarm goes off, everyone should get out of the house at once and call 911 from a neighbor's house. Do not ventilate your house by opening doors and windows. When first responders arrive, they will obtain CO readings in different areas of your home to determine the source of the leak. If you have questions about your gas furnaces or appliance, contact your gas company. If your CO alarm gives a warning signal, get out of the house and call 911.

For more information and to see a video on the dangers of carbon monoxide, go to

For more information, call Daniel L. Schmidt or Captain I Randal Bittinger,
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, 703-246-3801 and TTY: 711.
Duty PIO (Weekends/After-hours): 703-877-3702
Fairfax County is committed to nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in all county programs,
services and activities. Reasonable accommodations will be provided upon request.
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Fairfax, VA 22030

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