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Carbon Monoxide

Most people have heard of Carbon Monoxide (CO) and know that it's dangerous. But it's often a mystery of where it comes from, how it's produced, its physical symptoms, and what precautions can be taken to ensure it doesn't endanger you. Or worse, kill you.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas, often referred to as ‘the Silent Killer’ because you can't see it, touch it or smell it. This odourless gas is produced as a by-product of combustion when common fuel-burning appliances and equipment that use natural gas, oil, wood, propane and kerosene, don’t get enough air to burn up completely. When this happens, carbon monoxide can build up, especially in a confined room or space – and this can lead to toxic effects on humans and pets.

Protect yourself and your family from the “Silent Killer.” As per the the Hawkins-Gignac Act, the Ontario Fire Code has officially (October 2014) been amended to protect every Ontarian from carbon monoxide. The updates to the fire code put a number of key measures into effect, including making carbon monoxide alarms a requirement for every household in Ontario with a risk of carbon monoxide. Related video: Carbon Monoxide PSA.

Here is what Ontarians need to know:

  • No matter the age of your home, if you have oil, propane or gas burning appliances, furnace or water heater, a wood or gas fireplace, or an attached garage or carport, you must have at least one working carbon monoxide alarm installed.
  • Home owners who do not protect their homes with a CO alarm are at risk of being fined (similar to smoke alarm laws)
  • It is critical to check your CO alarm(s) expiry date. Replace any alarms built before 2008. CO alarms need to be replaced every 7–10 years depending on the brand.
  • Remember to annually replace batteries in your CO alarm, or opt for models with 10-year sealed lithium batteries that never need to be changed.
  • Regular appliance inspections are critical. Have a licenced technician check your fuel-burning appliances (furnace, range, fireplace, water heater) annually to ensure they are in proper working order and vented correctly.
Carbon Monoxide: Frequently Asked Questions
What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (also called CO) is a poisonous gas that you cannot see, smell or taste. It is often referred to as the 'silent killer'. CO is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, charcoal or wood.

Improperly installed or poorly maintained appliances that run on these fuels can create unsafe levels of CO. Even a small amount of CO is dangerous in enclosed spaces such as your home, cottage or recreational vehicle.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?

Exposure to CO can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, burning eyes, confusion, drowsiness and even loss of consciousness. In very severe cases, CO poisoning can cause brain damage and death. The elderly, children, people with heart or respiratory conditions, and pets may be particularly sensitive to CO and may feel the effects sooner.

What can create a CO hazard?
  • Fuel-burning appliances, venting systems and chimneys that have not been serviced and maintained regularly by a qualified service technician or heating contractor.
  • A chimney blocked by a bird or squirrel's nest, snow and ice or other debris.
  • Improper venting of a furnace and cracked furnace heat exchangers.
  • Exhaust fumes seeping into your home from a car running in an attached garage.
  • Using fuel-burning appliances designed for outdoor use (barbecues, lanterns, chainsaws, lawnmowers, snow blowers) in a closed area (tent, recreational vehicle, cottage workshop, garage).
  • Combustion gases spilling into a home if too much air is being consumed by a fireplace or exhausted by kitchen/bathroom fans in a tightly-sealed house.
What can I do to prevent a CO hazard?

The Barrie Fire and Emergency Service recommends annual inspection and maintenance of all fuel-burning appliances, venting systems and chimneys by a qualified service technician. Regularly maintained appliances that are properly ventilated should not produce hazardous levels of carbon monoxide.

If you are adding a new fuel-burning appliance or making changes to your home's ventilation system, please consult a qualified heating contractor to ensure that your home is safe from CO hazards.

What should I do if I suspect CO in my home?

If you or anyone else in your home is experiencing the symptoms of CO poisoning or your CO alarm sounds, make sure that everyone leaves the home immediately and gets medical help. Call 911 or your local fire department.


 

 

 

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