Prevention

Although carbon monoxide cannot be seen or smelled, there are signs that might indicate a problem, such as visible rust or stains on vents and chimneys, appliances that make unusual sounds or smells, or an appliance that keeps shutting off.

Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can be prevented by proper appliance use, maintenance, and installation. A qualified service technician should check a home's central and room heating appliances each year. The technician should look at the electrical and mechanical components of appliances, such as thermostat controls and automatic safety devices. In addition,

• Chimneys and flues should be checked for blockages, corrosion, and loose connections

• Individual appliances should be serviced regularly

• Kerosene and gas space heaters should be cleaned and inspected

• New appliances should be installed and vented properly

• The room where an unvented gas or kerosene space heater is used should be well ventilated, and doors leading to another room should be open to ensure proper ventilation

• An unvented combustion heater should never be used overnight or in a room where someone is sleeping

One of the best ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to install detectors that meet the requirements of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standard 2034. Detectors that meet the UL standard measure both high carbon monoxide concentrations over short periods of time, and low concentrations over long periods of time. Detectors sound an alarm before the level of carbon monoxide in a person's blood becomes dangerous. Since carbon monoxide gases move evenly and fairly quickly throughout the house, a CO detector should be installed on the wall or ceiling in sleeping areas, but outside individual bedrooms.

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