Carbon Monoxide

Understand the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that can't be seen or smelled.  It's made when fuels—like gas, kerosene, propane, or wood—are burned. In homes, carbon monoxide can quickly build up from a poorly vented or malfunctioning heater, furnace, range, fuel-powered appliances, or a car left idling in a garage.

Carbon monoxide is the most common cause of deadly poisonings. Wisconsin State law requires carbon monoxide detectors to be placed on each floor level in all Wisconsin homes.


Take Action if Your CO Detector Sounds

  • Take immediate action if your CO detector sounds or if you have headaches, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, and/or confusion.
  • Get fresh air immediately. Call your local fire department and move everyone outdoors into fresh air.
  • Do not re-enter the building until it has been inspected and declared safe.

Safety Tips

On average, carbon monoxide poisoning sends about 500 Wisconsinites to the emergency room each year. To protect yourself and your family from carbon monoxide, follow these safety tips:

  • Make sure you have working carbon monoxide detectors.  All homes and duplexes in Wisconsin are required to have detectors on every level, including the basement, but not the attic or storage areas.  Detectors can be purchased at most hardware stores for $20-50.  Daylight Savings Time is a good time each year to replace the batteries in your detector and push the “Test” button to be sure it’s working properly. Replace your detector every five years or according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have your furnace or wood-burning stove inspected annually.  Hire a professional to make sure it is functionally sound and vents properly outside the home.
  • Never run a gasoline or propane heater or a grill (gas or charcoal) inside your home or garage.  Any heating system that burns fuel produces carbon monoxide. Use a battery-powered detector where you have fuel burning devices but no electric outlets, such as in tents, cabins, and RVs.
  • Generators should be run at a safe distance (at least 20 feet) from the home.  Never run a generator, P-01569, in the home or garage, or right next to windows or doors.
  • Never run a car in an enclosed space.  Even with a door or window open, carbon monoxide levels can still build up to an unsafe level.

Data and Resources

Fact sheets
Ice arena resources
Boating resources

The New Carbon Monoxide Rule: Carbon Monoxide Detectors in Residential Buildings Webinar (recorded 7/17/2018)

For Health Professionals

This is a Wisconsin disease surveillance category II disease:

Carbon Monoxide Resources

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Last Revised: June 15, 2022