University of Rochester

Environmental Health & Safety


With the heating season just beginning, the Occupational Safety/Industrial Hygiene Unit of the University’s Environmental Health and Safety department would like to remind you of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can happen within a matter of minutes and is responsible for more deaths than any other single poison. This odorless, colorless poison can hurt you slowly in low levels, cause permanent neurological dysfunctions in moderate levels or take lives in higher levels. Protection against this deadly poison is as easy as installing a simple carbon monoxide detector in your home or office.

CO emissions produced whenever fuel such as gas, oil, kerosene, wood or charcoal is burned. The amount of CO produced while using fuel-burning appliances is usually not harmful. It becomes hazardous when appliances are used improperly or are not functioning adequately. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious threat that people need to get informed about. By educating ourselves on the dangers of CO we can significantly reduce the health risk as well as save lives. Although everyone needs to be aware of the dangers, some people are more susceptible than others. Infants, elderly people, and those who suffer from anemia, respiratory or heart disease are more susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Low levels of carbon monoxide poisoning can be confused with other illness symptoms and can often go undetected. Carbon monoxide poisoning can result in long term health problems if not treated promptly. Symptoms such as nausea, headaches and light-headedness should be checked by a physician especially when more than one person in the home is showing symptoms.

Routinely at the beginning of every heating season home owners should have their fuel burning appliances checked by a qualified technician. Appliances deteriorate with time and can be a health risk to those who live in the home. Besides having your appliances inspected, those using fuel-burning appliances should have their homes equipped with carbon monoxide detectors to provide added peace of mind. Appliances can break down any time of year so it is important to have a back-up system in place to keep you informed when CO levels increase. A CO detector should be placed on every floor in the home to provide the best protection. Also knowing which carbon monoxide detectors to choose and knowing how CO detectors work can help maximize security.

There are three different types of carbon monoxide detectors, each with their own unique features. Before purchasing a detector, know the differences between each model and be clear about how many detectors you want to have in your home.

Whichever CO detector you buy, don’t forget to also look for these features:

For other important information regarding your work place health and safety, Environmental Health and Safety invites you to check out its website at

Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

This page last updated 10/27/2010. Disclaimer.