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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is formed when carbon-based fuels, such as kerosene, gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, charcoal or wood, are burned with inadequate amounts of oxygen, creating a condition known as incomplete combustion. 

What causes carbon monoxide poisoning?

In the case of home gas appliances, this can be caused by:

  • improper installation,
  • poor maintenance, or
  • other appliance misuse or failure.

Why is it dangerous?

Prolonged exposure can lead to death by asphyxiation.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Early stages of exposure:

  • unexplained nausea
  • unexplained drowsiness
  • mental confusion
  • flu-like symptoms:
    • headaches
    • dizziness
    • vomiting
    • shortness of breath

Prolonged exposure:

Prolonged exposure can lead to death by asphyxiation.

What should I do if I suspect carbon monoxide is present in my home?

  • Turn off the appliance. If safe to do so, immediately turn off the suspected gas appliance.
  • Evacuate. Evacuate the premises and call 911.
  • Seek medical attention. Seek medical attention if anyone in the home experiences possible carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms.
  • Call for appliance inspection.  Contact SDG&E at 1-800-411-SDGE (7343) or a licensed, qualified professional immediately to have the appliance inspected.
  • Don’t use the appliance. Don’t use the suspected gas appliance until it has been inspected, serviced and determined to be safe by SDG&E or a licensed, qualified professional.

How can I best maintain and use gas appliances to prevent carbon monoxide?

  • Vacuum. Vacuum around burner compartments, and inspect and replace furnace filters on forced-air units or central heating systems according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Replace front panels.  Make sure to properly replace the front panels of a forced-air unit or the burner compartment door of a gas wall heater.
  • Maintain proper airflow. Never store anything near a gas appliance that might interfere with normal appliance airflow.
  • Leave the fireplace damper open. When using your gas fireplace, make sure the damper is open.
  • Perform safety checks. Gas appliance maintenance is always the homeowner’s responsibility. However, we will perform appliance safety checks upon request.
    • Call 1-800-411-SDGE (7343).

What do I need to know about carbon monoxide home alarms?

  • Maintenance. Alarms require routine maintenance.
  • Periodic replacement required. Replace alarms every three to five years to perform properly.
  • Keep up gas appliance maintenance, too.  Alarms don’t replace regular gas appliance maintenance.

What’s the best defense against accidental carbon monoxide poisoning caused by faulty natural gas appliances? 

  • Inspection
  • Routine maintenance
    SDGE, a Sempra Energy Utility