Tips To Prevent Unintentional Carbon Monoxide Poisonings

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous poison, but serious injury and death can be prevented. From 2000-2005, more than 400 New Yorkers were hospitalized and 30 died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. This fact sheet provides information on how to keep your home safe.

What should I do if the carbon monoxide detector alarm sounds?
1. Open your windows.
2. Leave your home.
3. Get to fresh air immediately.
4. Call 911.
5. Call the New York City Poison Control Center at: (212) POISONS (764-7667).
6. Alert your neighbors during a carbon monoxide emergency, since the problem may affect the entire building.

Where does carbon monoxide come from?
Carbon monoxide gas comes from the burning of natural gas, oil, charcoal, gasoline, wood, and other materials. You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide.

What are the health effects from breathing carbon monoxide?
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

Severe poisoning can result in seizures, serious injury or death.

What are some causes of carbon monoxide poisoning?

  • Exposure to house fires,
  • Using poorly maintained or unvented furnaces, boilers, stoves, hot water heaters, or other fuel burning equipment,
  • Using gas stoves or ovens to heat the home,
  • Using clogged chimneys and heating exhaust vents,
  • Using an outdoor grill inside the home, a garage, or a tent,
  • Using kerosene or propane space heaters indoors,
  • Running cars, generators, or gas-powered tools in enclosed areas, or
  • Starting car or truck when exhaust pipe is blocked with snow.

Do I need a carbon monoxide detector?
Yes, because carbon monoxide is colorless and has no odor, you may not know that there is a problem. Carbon monoxide detectors alert you and your family when there are dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in your home.

Most homes and residential buildings in New York City are required by law to have carbon monoxide detectors installed near all sleeping areas. Owners are responsible for installing approved carbon monoxide detectors. Occupants are responsible for keeping and maintaining the carbon monoxide detectors in
good repair.

If I rent my home, how can I get a carbon monoxide detector?
First, ask your landlord to install a carbon monoxide detector. If your landlord is not sure of the requirements, or does not install a detector, call 311.

Where is the best place to put the carbon monoxide detector?
Install a detector within 15 feet of each bedroom, so that it can be heard if you are sleeping. Remember, homes may need more than one detector, depending on how many bedrooms there are and where they are located.

I have a smoke detector. Do I still need a carbon monoxide detector?
Yes, because there may not be any smoke present when there is a carbon monoxide problem, a smoke detector is not enough. However, you may use a combination device that detects both smoke and
carbon monoxide.

What must building owners do to prevent carbon monoxide poisonings?

  • Must install carbon monoxide detectors near sleeping areas in most buildings
  • Make sure that chimneys and fuel burning equipment are properly maintained

Tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in homes

  • Test all carbon monoxide detectors at least once a month.
  • Replace your carbon monoxide detector’s batteries twice a year, in the spring and in the fall when clocks are changed for daylight savings time, or when there is a low battery signal. Even if your detector uses electricity, battery back-up is needed in case there is a power loss.
  • Never paint over carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Never use your gas oven or stove to heat your home.
  • Never run a car inside the garage. In the winter, make sure the tailpipe is clear of snow before you start the car engine.
  • Never use an outdoor grill inside your home, a garage, or a tent.
  • Never use kerosene or propane space heaters indoors.
  • If you use a generator during a power outage, keep it outdoors, away from open windows or enclosed areas.

More information
For questions or to report exposure to carbon monoxide, call the NYC Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 . Poison specialists are available 24 hours/seven days a week.

To report heating breakdowns, gas leaks or housing maintenance problems in rental housing, call 311.

For more information about the NYC carbon monoxide detector law and the sources of carbon monoxide call 311.