Although the popularity of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms has been growing in recent years, it cannot be assumed that everyone is familiar with the hazards of carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.
Often called the silent killer, carbon monoxide is an invisible, odourless, colorless gas created when fuels (such as gasoline, wood, coal, natural gas, propane, oil, and methane) burn incompletely. In the home, heating and cooking equipment that burn fuel are potential sources of carbon monoxide. Vehicles or generators running in an attached garage can also produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide..
If you suspect carbon monoxide in your home, get out immediately and call the fire department.
Conditions that can create a CO hazard include:
- Fuel-burning appliances, venting systems and chimneys that have not been serviced and maintained regularly by a qualified service technician.
- A chimney blocked by a squirrel or bird’s nest, snow, ice or other debris.
- Improper venting of a furnace or cracked furnace heat exchanger.
- Exhaust fumes seeping into your home from a vehicle running in an attached garage.
- Improper use of portable heaters.
- Using fuel-burning appliances designed for outdoor use (barbecues, lanterns, chainsaws, lawnmowers, snow blowers) in an enclosed area such as a garage or workshop.
- 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.
CARBON MONOXIDE SAFETY TIPS.
- Test CO alarms at least once a month; replace them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- If the CO alarm sounds, immediately move to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door. Make sure everyone inside the home is accounted for. Call for help from a safe location and stay there until emergency personnel arrive.
- If you need to warm a vehicle, remove it from the garage immediately after starting it. Do not run a vehicle or other fuelled engine or motor indoors, even if garage doors are open. Make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.
- During and after a snowstorm, make sure vents for the dryer, furnace, stove, fireplace and any other fuel burning appliance are clear of snow/ice build-up.
- A generator should be used in a well-ventilated location outdoors away from windows, doors and vent openings.
- Annual inspection and cleaning of furnaces, chimneys, fireplaces and all other fuel-burning equipment such as gas dryers and stoves
- Never operate a gasoline-powered engine indoors or in closed space - Only use outside
- Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
- Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers to heat your home.
- Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
- If the audible trouble signal sounds, check for low batteries. If the battery is low, replace it. If it still sounds, call the fire department.
- CO alarms should be installed in a central location outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and in other locations where required by applicable laws, codes or standards. For the best protection, interconnect all CO alarms throughout the home. When one sounds, they all sound.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
- Choose a CO alarm that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory and take the time to read the manufacturer’s instructions that are enclosed with each detector.
SYMPTOMS OF CO POISONING
CO enters the body through breathing. CO poisoning can be confused with flu symptoms ( without the fever), food poisoning and other illnesses. Some symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including
- Mental confusion
- Loss of muscular coordination
- Loss of consciousness
- Ultimately death
The dangers of CO exposure depend on a number of variables, including the victim's health and activity level. Infants, pregnant women, and people with physical conditions that limit their body's ability to use oxygen (i.e. emphysema, asthma, heart disease) can be more severely affected by lower concentrations of CO than healthy adults would be.
A person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time