Carbon Monoxide Myths and Facts

Carbon monoxide can be deadly. Knowing the truth about it can save a life.

Myth:You can smell carbon monoxide and sometimes it has a taste.
Fact:Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and tasteless. Sometimes when people say they can smell it what they really are smelling is the byproducts of the fuel that is burning, not the carbon monoxide. These smells also can cause a taste in some people's mouths.


Myth:The only time carbon monoxide exists is if something is burning a fuel such as a fireplace, gas appliance or heating device.

Carbon monoxide is in the air we breathe daily. Our bodies need a certain amount of it to function and can handle slightly higher concentrations in short amounts, but prolonged exposure is dangerous.



Myth:Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed and maintained like smoke alarms.

Carbon monoxide alarms detect the gas at any height, so they can be installed in electrical outlets near the floor.

Like smoke alarms, you should test and vacuum carbon monoxide alarms monthly. Change the batteries twice a year when you change your clocks. Replace them at 8-10 years of age.


Myth:Carbon monoxide alarms are notorious for giving false alarms.

Older carbon monoxide alarms were sensitive enough to go off when no real danger existed. Most on the market now are better calibrated for proper detection.


Myth:Carbon monoxide emergencies and fire emergencies are the same and should be handled in the same way.

Fires happen quickly and can double in size every 30 seconds.

High carbon monoxide levels typically develop over time, such as with a small leak in a chimney flue. Many carbon monoxide alarms have two alarms: an "alert" notification signals you to investigate and let fresh air into the house. A "warning" alert signals you to get out everyone out of the house and call for help.


Myth:I'll be able to tell if my house has an excessive level of carbon monoxide.
Fact:You may not be able to tell. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms are similar to flu symptoms, which is why functioning carbon monoxide detectors are so important.