Department of Health

Be on the Alert for Carbon Monoxide

All homes should be equipped with a battery-operated CO detector.

December 1, 2011 | 2 min reading time

It is the season to be on the lookout for the silent killer, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Carbon monoxide, found in combustion fumes, is an odorless, colorless gas. The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. High levels of inhalation can cause sudden illness, loss of consciousness and even death. The St Louis Fire Department will respond to assist if these symptoms occur and determine the level of the CO within your residence and the source.

"Many of the symptoms of CO poisoning mirror the symptoms of other illnesses. The gas can be difficult to detect without proper monitoring devices," said Pamela Rice Walker, Health Director for the City of St. Louis. The Health Department encourages all residents to have a battery-operated CO detector installed in their homes.

More than 400 Americans die every year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, over 20,000 are rushed to emergency rooms, and over 4, 000 are hospitalized. Although all people and animals are at risk for CO poisoning, unborn babies, infants, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems are more susceptible to it. Individuals 65 and older are most at risk for fatality.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following:

  • Having a mechanic check the exhaust system of your vehicle every year. A small leak in your exhaust system can lead to a build up of CO inside the driving compartment.
  • Never run a vehicle in a closed garage. CO can build up quickly while your car or truck is running in a closed garage.
  • Never run your car or truck inside a garage that is attached to a house and always open the door to any garage to let in fresh air when running a car or truck inside the garage.
  • Never use a gas range or oven for heating. Using a gas range or oven for heating can cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper.
  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window, door, or vent.
  • Install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.

For additional information on carbon monoxide, visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency website at


Health Department
City of St. Louis


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