What you need to know (and do) about carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) gas is an invisible, odourless gas that can poison, and, if undetected, even kill. Breathing it in can make you feel sick—like you have the flu. You may experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Those most at risk are infants and small children, pregnant women, senior citizens, and people with heart or lung problems.
Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels, and can be released by gas furnaces and fireplaces, hot water heaters, vehicles, wood stoves, and kerosene heaters. Faulty burners, clogged chimneys, and improper ventilation are often part of the problem.
The best way to safeguard your family from a threat that you can’t see, smell, or taste is to equip your home with carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide can only be detected by a carbon monoxide alarm, so it’s vital that every home with at least one fuel-burning appliance, attached garage, and/or fireplace has a carbon monoxide detector.
Carbon monoxide detectors have an audible alarm that warns of high carbon monoxide levels in your home. They should be installed outside sleeping areas, and on every level of your home. It’s important to follow installation instructions, test carbon monoxide detectors once a month, and to replace batteries as instructed by the manufacturer.
To reduce the chances of carbon monoxide poisoning it’s also essential that you:
- Eliminate carbon monoxide at the source by having your furnace, fireplace, and all fuel-burning appliances professionally checked and cleaned each year.
- Install a certified CO alarm in your home and check the battery regularly to make sure it’s working.
- Never leave a vehicle running in an attached garage.
- Become acquainted with the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. If they appear, get everyone outside immediately. Pets too!
- Avoid heating your home with a gas stove, or use a barbeque (or charcoal grill) in your home or in an enclosed area.
- Ensure that vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, and fireplace are clear of snow during the winter months.
- Never use a gas-powered generator inside your home.
If your carbon monoxide detector goes off, don’t try to locate the source. Immediately head outside and call 911 from a safe place. Only return to your home after the problem has been fixed by a professional.