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Important Facts for Carbon Monoxide: Hospitalizations and Emergency Department (ED) Visits


Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, and poisonous gas that can cause sudden illness and death if inhaled.


Number of hospitalizations or emergency department visits for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.


Midyear resident population estimates.

Data Interpretation Issues

Hospitalization and emergency department (ED) data may underestimate carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning prevalence because these data may not include those who call poison control centers and are managed at the scene, those who do not seek any medical care, or those who die immediately from CO exposure without medical care. Also, the toxic effects of CO exposure are nonspecific and easily misdiagnosed when CO exposure is not suspected. Misdiagnosed cases are not counted. Finally, due to different surveillance practices, data may not be fully comparable between states or jurisdictions.

Why Is This Important?

Hospitalization and emergency department (ED) visits for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are almost entirely preventable if proper measures are taken, such as always having a working carbon monoxide detector in your home or work. CO is found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by cars, trucks, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, gas ranges, and heating systems. Wherever a flame or combustion occurs, some deadly carbon monoxide gas can be produced. CO from these sources can build up in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces causing people and animals in these spaces to be poisoned by breathing it. CO poisoning is especially concerning after emergency situations, such as power outages or natural disasters, because of certain equipment people use that give off CO. Generators, grills, camp stoves, or other gasoline equipment, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning devices should never be used inside a home, basement, garage, camper, or even outside near an open window. CO poisoning can also occur outdoors in fresh air and has been reported while boating. In these cases, CO poisoning has been attributed mostly to generator exhaust that builds up inside and outside a boat in areas near exhaust vents. Dangerous concentrations of CO can accumulate within seconds; therefore, schedule regular engine and exhaust system maintenance for your boat and install a battery operated CO detector that you routinely test each time you use your boat. CO poisoning is almost entirely preventable. To protect yourself from CO poisoning, use equipment that emits CO responsibly and use a properly working carbon monoxide detector in your home. These detectors can be purchased at most grocery and home improvement stores for relatively low cost.

What Is Being Done?

There are organizations that provide free information about carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and prevention, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, health promotion and outreach activities often take place to educate the public about CO poisoning and prevention. However, it is primarily up to the individual to practice behaviors to prevent CO poisoning such as installing working CO detectors and using equipment properly that emits CO gas.
The information provided above is from the Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Sat, 20 January 2018 11:50:41 from Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Fri, 26 May 2017 10:19:43 MDT