You’ve likely heard of carbon monoxide - it’s an odourless and colourless lethal gas that can cause headaches, hallucinations, and is the leading cause of accidental poisoning death in North America, according to the Technical Standards and Safety Authority. Carbon monoxide is harmful even in small doses and exposure to it can lead to irreversible damage - its “silent killer” nickname is well earned.
Carbon monoxide is produced by your home’s most necessary appliances including gas stoves, furnaces, and gas water heaters. It can build up when producing appliances are not ventilated properly, for example when the vent of a gas fireplace is blocked.
Follow these tips to help minimize the risk to yourself and your family.
- Complete annual inspections on all fuel burning appliances including furnaces, gas fireplaces and gas stoves. Inspections should be performed by certified professionals at intervals outlined by the manufacturers’ standards.
- Check ventilation systems including chimneys, floor vents and dryer vents for blockages and obstructions. When carbon monoxide has no clear way out, it will stay inside and accumulate overtime.
- Install a Canadian Standard Association approved carbon monoxide alarm. A provincial law in Ontario requires carbon monoxide alarms in nearly all residential dwellings, including RVs and campers. A similar law has been in effect in the Yukon since 2013. For other provinces, Health Canada recommends installing at least one alarm per dwelling, but if you have a large home, consider placing alarms around the sleeping area, cooking area and in the basement.
- While it may seem like a good idea to use a gas BBQ in the garage or a space heater in the basement, never use outdoor appliances indoors. Outdoor appliances depend on open air for proper ventilation and can quickly become dangerous in confined spaces.
- The symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure are so simple and commonplace, so it’s easy to dismiss them. Shortness of breath, headaches and lack of mental clarity are common for mild to moderate exposure. If you notice such symptoms disappearing when you leave your home, get yourself, your family and your pets out immediately and call in a professional to investigate.
Carbon monoxide deaths are tragic and should be 100% preventable. Simply follow the above guidelines to help minimize the risk of carbon monoxide poisoining.