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carbon monoxide detector

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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California Environmental Health Tracking Program

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Last Edited: 9/28/2010

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Prevention and Treatment

How is CO poisoning treated?

It’s important to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.  If you experience these symptoms and suspect CO exposure, call 9-1-1 immediately and move to an outside location.  Early treatment may prevent tissue damage and reduce the likelihood of long-term effects.

Treatment is often aimed at replacing the existing CO in the blood with oxygen.  This can be done with an oxygen mask, a ventilator, or an oxygen chamber.


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How can CO poisoning be prevented?

CO poisoning is preventable.  There are several precautions that can be taken to ensure that you and your family are safe from CO poisoning.

  • DO install a battery-powered CO alarm near all sleeping areas in your home
    • The batteries in CO alarms should be changed two times per year (spring and fall) to ensure that the alarm functions properly
    • Inexpensive CO alarms are available at home improvement and hardware stores, as well as at some general merchandise retailers
  • DO service heating and water systems annually
  • DO service any gas, oil, or coal burning appliances annually
  • DO avoid activities that may increase CO exposure
  • DO seek immediate medical attention if CO poisoning is suspected
  • DON’T idle gasoline-powered vehicles (e.g. cars, motorcycles) in a closed garage
  • DON’T use a gas oven or stove to heat your home
  • DON’T use portable generators indoors
  • DON’T use a charcoal grill indoors
  • DON'T engage in activities (such as teak surfing) near engine exhaust outlets

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides further guidelines for preventing CO poisoning.


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Beginning in mid 2011, all single-family homes with fuel-burning appliances (such as gas-powered furnaces and water heaters) in California are required to have a CO alarm installed.  All other residences in California must have a CO alarm installed by 2013 (California Senate Bill 183). 

Mandatory installation of CO alarms may reduce the incidence of home-associated CO poisoning.


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