Carbon Monoxide Safety | Atmos Energy
Father and son, who is riding on his dad's back outside with green leaves in the background

Carbon Monoxide Safety

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless toxic gas. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns people that because CO’s toxic fumes are impossible to see, taste or smell, it can be deadly. The EPA states sources of CO can include:

  • Automobile exhaust from attached garages or structures
  • Unvented kerosene and gas space heaters
  • Back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces
  • Gas stoves, boilers or furnaces that are improperly vented or not operating correctly
  • Other portable equipment intended for outdoor use such as generators, grills and heaters

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the most common symptoms of CO poisoning are often described as “flu-like” and common symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion

If someone you know experiences these symptoms and you think they have been exposed to carbon monoxide, the EPA recommends you do the following: 

  • Leave the building and get fresh air immediately.
  • Call 911or seek emergency medical attention.
  • Open doors and windows.
  • Turn off stoves, ovens, heaters and similar appliances.
  • Call a poison center immediately at 800-222-1222 and the center’s experts will let you know if further medical attention is required.

According to the EPA, the most important first step is to be sure combustion equipment like boilers, furnaces, water heaters and certain appliances are properly maintained. Always be careful when operating a vehicle near a building or in a garage. Additional tips to prevent CO build up include:

  • DO NOT idle a vehicle inside garage or other enclosed structure.
  • DO NOT forget to properly install, adjust, operate and vent appliances.
  • DO NOT sleep in any room with an unvented gas or kerosene space heater.
  • DO NOT use charcoal to start a fire inside.
  • DO NOT ignore headaches, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and flu-like symptoms, particularly if more than one person is feeling ill.
  • DO NOT close flues when fireplaces are in use.
  • DO NOT wait to fix any leaks.
  • Check vents on water heaters, dryers and other equipment to be sure air can flow through, without being blocked by bird nests, snow or other material.
  • Have a trained professional inspect, clean and tune-up central heating and water heating systems annually.
  • Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one.
  • Install and use an exhaust fan that vents to the outside over gas stoves.
  • Choose properly-sized wood stoves that meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all wood stoves fit tightly.
  • The CDC also notes that CO detectors can be used for additional protection. 

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Atmos Energy recommend that consumers install carbon monoxide detectors and advise that a carbon monoxide alarm can provide added protection. CO detectors are not, however, a substitute for proper use and upkeep of appliances that can produce CO. 

As of January 2017, 27 states and the District of Columbia require carbon monoxide detectors in private homes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. For more information about local, state and federal guidelines for carbon monoxide detectors inside a home, visit their website

The U.S. Fire Administration recommends installation and maintenance of CO alarms in a central location, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home to provide early warning of CO. You may also contact your state fire marshal’s office for information.

Information on this site was gathered from industry-leading safety and government agencies to ensure the safe use of natural gas. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the area immediately and from a safe distance call 911.

Atmos Energy’s emergency line is also available at 866-322-8667