Release 09-97
October 27, 2009

    Dimitri Stanich
Carbon Monoxide: A Colder Months' Health Threat
Heating appliances should be inspected and CO detectors installed
Watch video explaining the dangers from CO

SACRAMENTO - The Air Resources Board is urging Californians to protect their families from carbon monoxide poisoning by having gas appliances inspected and detectors installed before the cold weather arrives.

On average each year, 35 Californians and 450 people nationally die from accidental CO poisoning, and many more experience flu-like symptoms from exposure to harmful but non-lethal levels of CO. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that blocks the use of oxygen in the body. Young children and individuals with heart disease are those most likely to be affected by CO poisoning. Warning signs of exposure to CO are headache, drowsiness, nausea, and inability to concentrate, which go away when the person gets fresh air for awhile.

"A call for a free inspection from your local utility company can help assure that your family is safe," said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols. "I can't urge people strongly enough to take advantage of this service."

More than half of all CO poisoning deaths are from malfunctioning or improperly vented combustion appliances in homes. ARB recommends that everyone:

If you are concerned about the safety of your gas furnace or oven, contact your local utility provider or utility certified heating contractor immediately and request a combustion appliance safety test that includes CO measurements. Some utility companies will inspect home equipment for little or no charge.

In addition, do not to operate cars or other internal combustion engines in enclosed spaces or attached garages. A third of CO poisoning deaths are the result of accidental exposure from vehicles running in closed garages.

ARB data show that outdoor CO levels rise throughout California between the months of November and March because of stagnant weather conditions. These levels have been measured in covered garages and at busy intersections. Rising levels of outdoor CO may generate health complaints in sensitive people.

For more information on indoor combustion pollutants, see our indoor air quality guideline entitled "Combustion Pollutants in Your Home" at: /research/indoor/combustf.htm.

The Air Resources Board is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. ARB's mission is to promote and protect public health, welfare, and ecological resources through effective reduction of air pollutants while recognizing and considering effects on the economy. The ARB oversees all air pollution control efforts in California to attain and maintain health based air quality standards.