Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - The Silent Killer

Carbon monoxide (C0) is a gas that comes from burning fossil fuels like natural gas, gasoline, kerosene, methane, propane, oil, coal and wood.  Common sources of carbon monoxide in the home include automobiles, kerosene heaters, space heaters, charcoal grills, clogged chimneys, gas water heaters, stoves, ovens, and dryers.  The majority of CO exposures take place in the winter and in the home. 

Carbon monoxide is called the silent killer because you cannot see it, taste it or smell it.  Carbon monoxide cuts off oxygen to the brain and heart that can cause brain damage or death.  Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include tightness across the forehead, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and dimness of vision.  This can progress to fluttering of the heart, chest pain, increased breathing rate, and may end with coma, convulsions and death. 

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, immediately get outside to fresh air
and then call the NM Poison Center:  1-800-222-1222.

Download the Carbon Monoxide Safety Information handout (pdf).

Carbon Monoxide Poison Prevention Tips

  • Have all fuel-burning household appliances inspected each year, especially before winter arrives. Also, use all fuel-burning appliances correctly.
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  • Never warm-up a car or leave a car running in the garage even if the garage door is open. Always take the keys out of the ignition once the car is parked.
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  • Do not leave your car engine running when it is parked or covered in snow.
  • CO Detector
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  • Have your vehicle inspected at least once a year for exhaust leaks.
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  • Never use an oven to heat your home.
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  • When the fireplace is in use, open the flue to make sure it is ventilated safely.
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  • Gas fired barbeque and charcoal grills give off dangerous carbon monoxide fumes.  They must never be used inside a house or garage…not even with the door opened.
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  • When camping, use only battery powered heaters and lights in tents, trailers, or motor homes. Never use fuel-burning appliances inside.
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  • Breathing Carbon Monoxide is a poisoning emergency.  Call the New Mexico Poison Center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-222-1222.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

  • Install a UL-approved carbon monoxide detector that will sound an alarm when it detects CO gas in the air.  Install the detector in every sleeping area and on each level of the home.
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  • If the CO alarm goes off, leave the home immediately and call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for emergency treatment information.
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  • If your carbon monoxide detector is battery operated, be sure to test batteries regularly according to the manufacture’s instructions.  A good rule of thumb to remember with carbon monoxide detectors is to change the batteries at daylight savings time, twice a year.
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