Terms of the Trade: What Is Carbon Monoxide?

A carbon monoxide detector.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that several thousand people go to hospitals every year seeking treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning, and it's the number one cause of death by poison in America. With these scary statistics, it's important to know what carbon monoxide is and how you can prevent its presence in your own home. Carbon monoxide is a gas, made up of carbon and oxygen, that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It can cause fatalities in people (and animals) when present in closed environments due to malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as gas stoves, water heaters, furnaces, etc. Because you can't detect from your own senses when this toxic gas is in your home, install carbon monoxide detectors, which work like smoke alarms and alert you when it detects unsafe levels in your home. Also, make sure your gas-powered appliances are working properly to ensure that malfunctions and leaks won't happen.