Carbon monoxide (CO) is a by-product of incomplete combustion. Carbon monoxide is known as the "silent killer" because it is colorless, odorless and tasteless; and since the symptoms of exposure are very similar to those of a cold or flu (headache, nausea, fatigue, etc.) carbon monoxide problems may go undetected until it is too late.
Questions may be addressed to of the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality Indoor Air Program at 701-328-5166.
Answering the following questions may help to differentiate between the flu and CO exposure:
- Are you experiencing the symptoms described above?
- Do your symptoms go away or decrease when you leave the building and come back when you return?
- Does anyone else complain of the same symptoms? If so, did the symptoms appear at about the same time?
- Do you have a CO alarm? If so, is it going off?
- Are you using any fuel-burning appliances or equipment?
- When was the last time you had your combustion appliances inspected? Are you certain they are working properly?
If you have reason to believe that you have been exposed to CO, take it very seriously: get fresh air immediately, see a doctor and have your combustion appliances checked by a professional before returning to the building.
There are two essential ways to protect against possible CO exposure. First, install and maintain CO detectors in your home. Some experts recommend having a detector on each floor of your home and placing them near rooms where people sleep. Second, have all combustion appliances regularly maintained by a professional. In addition, don't idle you car in a garage, don't use a gas oven to heat your home even for a short period, don't use charcoal grills inside, and don't operate gas-powered engines (lawn mower, chain saw, snow blower, etc.) in enclosed spaces.