Don’t be a Statistic


Every year people die from carbon monoxide poisoning in their home.  Every home should have at least one carbon monoxide detector.  Realistically, at least one on every floor.  Most building codes now require both CO and smoke detectors in new construction.


What is It?

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is odourless, colourless and tasteless.  It is a gas that when inhaled enters the bloodstream and deprives the brain and heart of oxygen.  Symptoms of CO poisoning include headaches, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, irritability and nausea. Sometimes it is mistaken as the flu at lower levels of exposure.


Who is at Risk?

Everyone.  However, different people may react differently depending on age, health, concentration and length of time exposed.  Seniors, children and people with heart or lung conditions are more prone to CO poisoning.


What are the Potential Sources of Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon Monoxide is a by-product of combustion of fossil fuels.  Some sources in the home are heating systems, stoves, clothes dryers, water heaters and fireplaces.  Attached garages with running vehicles, gas tools, generators and BBQs are some other sources.


Reduce the Risk

Have all fuel burning systems checked by a professional.  Your furnace, water heater and fireplace are critical.  Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the door open.  Don’t use a BBQ indoors.  And, be sure to install CO detectors and check them regularly to be sure they are working properly.


CO Alarms

When buying a CO or smoke detector, look for the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or CSA (Canadian Safety Standards) labels.  Always follow the installation instructions and maintenance guidelines.  And, don’t forget to replace the batteries at least annually.  These unit have a typical lifespan of 5 to 7 years so make a note to replaces them when they are near the end of their expected usefulness.  And, test regularly.


What to Do if a Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarm Sounds?

NEVER ignore a sounding CO alarm.  The alarm may be detecting elevated levels of CO and since it is colourless, odourless and tasteless, you have no way of knowing.  And, you may not have any symptoms until it is too late.  What needs to be done when an alarm sounds depends on whether or not anyone is feeling ill or obvious signs of a carbon monoxide source are present.

If no one is feeling symptoms:


  •      Turn off all appliances and sources of combustion (e.g., furnace and fireplace).
  •      Open windows and doors to ventilate the home.
  •      Reset the alarm.
  •      Call a professional to investigate the source of the possible CO buildup before starting up any CO producing equipment.  Your local fire department will respond and help to ensure everyone is safe.
  •      The source of CO may be outside your house or apartment.

If illness is a factor:

  •     Evacuate everyone immediately.
  •     Determine how many occupants are ill and determine their symptoms.
  •     Call 911 and when relaying information, include the number of people feeling ill and their symptoms.
  •     DO NOT allow anyone to re-enter the home until it has been checked for CO and other hazards.
  •     Call a professional to repair or correct the source of the CO.


Note:  These tips are general guidelines. Each situation is different, so contact a professional if you have any questions.

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