Between 2000 and 2013, 1,125 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning in Canada.”Statistics Canada
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a leading cause of unintentional poisoning deaths in Canada and North America. CO is a colourless, odourless, toxic gas that can cause immediate harm if unnoticed, including coma and death.
CO is produced by appliances that run on fossil fuels (wood, gas, oil or coal), such as:
- Clothes dryers
- Water heaters
- Fireplaces (wood or gas)
- Gas or oil furnaces
- Exhaust fumes from cars
Prevention at home
Be aware of the hazard.
CO is a highly poisonous gas, often referred to as “the silent killer” because you can’t see it, touch it or smell it.
Know the symptoms of CO poisoning.
- They are similar to the flu – nausea, headache, burning eyes, confusion and drowsiness – except there is no fever. These symptoms are often either ignored or misdiagnosed.
- If they appear, immediately get everyone, including pets, outside to fresh air and call 911 or your local fire department.
Eliminate CO at the source.
Fuel-burning appliances are a common source of CO when they malfunction; as well, the gas can build up due to poor venting or confined spaces, such as you find in a furnace room, garage, cabin, tent, RV, boat cabin or camper. Have a TSSA-certified fuel technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances every year.
Install CSA-approved CO alarms in your home to alert your family to the presence of the gas.
The nature of carbon monoxide poisoning requires proactive safety measures – waiting until after the poisoning has occurred is too late. Without a carbon monoxide alarm, you can’t detect this poisonous gas.
CO alarms are mandatory in some, but not all, provinces and territories in Canada: they are mandatory as of 2020 in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon.
Alarms with digital displays let you see if there’s a change in your home’s air quality before it reaches dangerous levels. There are also combination smoke and CO alarms; some models even “talk” by calling out the danger when it sounds.
- Follow manufacturer’s instruction or ask your local fire department for installation locations.
- Place the alarm where you can easily see the digital readout. Unlike smoke that rises, CO mixes with air so CO alarms can be installed at any height in a room.
- Install CO alarms on every floor of your home and outside sleeping areas.
- Do NOT install CO alarms in garages.
- Test the alarms monthly using the test button.
- Remove dust and other airborne debris by lightly vacuuming alarms.
- Replace batteries at least once a year.
- Replace the unit according to the manufacturer’s instructions, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. Alarms wear out! Sensors weaken and become obstructed over time.