Keep carbon monoxide out of your home

Each year, Canadians die or become ill because of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Protect your family by following these safety tips and installing CO detectors in your home.

Important!

If your CO alarm sounds:

  1. Leave your home immediately and move to fresh air.
  2. Do not try to locate the source of CO.
  3. Once outside, call 911, your fire department or emergency services.
  4. Do not return to your home until the problem has been fixed by a professional.
 

What is carbon monoxide (CO)?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a harmful gas that has no colour, smell or taste. CO forms whenever you burn fuel like propane, natural gas, gasoline, oil, coal, and wood. It is also contained in second-hand smoke.

While CO can be present in your home at any time of the year, the risk is greater in cold winter months. That's because homes in Canada are usually heated by furnaces, water heaters/boilers, wood stoves, and other appliances that run on fuels. If these devices are improperly installed or malfunction, they can release CO into your home.

Other sources of CO include vehicle exhaust, blocked chimney flues, fuel-burning cooking appliances, and charcoal grills used in a home, tent, camper, garage or other unventilated areas.

Health risks

CO can cause health problems before you even notice that it is present. When you breathe in CO, it reduces your body's ability to carry oxygen in your blood.

The effects of exposure to CO can be very serious:

  • At low levels, symptoms include headaches, tiredness, shortness of breath, and impaired motor functions. These symptoms sometimes feel like the flu.
  • At high levels, or if you are exposed to low levels for long periods of time, you can experience dizziness, chest pain, tiredness, poor vision, and difficulty thinking.
  • At very high levels, CO can cause convulsions, coma, and even death.

How do I know if I have a CO problem?

CO can only be detected with a CO detector.

Did you know?

You cannot hear, taste, see or smell CO. That's why it's called the "silent killer." A CO detector can protect you by telling you if you have CO in your home.

Safety tips

  • Maintenance is the key!
    • There is no substitute for good maintenance of fuel-burning appliances, because CO detectors may not detect low levels of CO.
    • Make sure appliances like furnaces, fireplaces, gas stoves, and water heaters are well maintained and inspected by a professional at least once a year.
    • During and after a snow storm, inspect the exhaust vents for your dryer, furnace, wood-burning or gas stove, fireplace, and heat recovery ventilator to make sure they are not covered with snow.
  • Get a CO detector!
    • Put at least one CO detector in your home. A smoke alarm helps protect against fires, not CO. You need a CO detector in your home as well as a smoke alarm.
    • Install a Canadian Standards Association (CSA) certified CO detector with an alarm you can hear to warn you of high CO levels in your home. The most important place to install a detector is in hallways, outside of sleeping areas.
    • Make sure to follow the manufacturer's suggestions on how to install, test, use, and replace the detector.
    • Test your detectors regularly. Replace batteries and the detector itself as recommended by the manufacturer. You can use a marker to remind yourself when it was installed and when it should be replaced.
  • Leave it outside!
    • Never use a barbecue or portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle, camper or tent.
    • Don't use kerosene or oil space heaters or lamps in enclosed areas unless they're specifically designed for indoor use.
    • Since tobacco smoke is a source of CO, don't let people smoke indoors.
  • No idling indoors!
    • Don't let vehicles idle in the garage, even when the garage door is open.
    • Never run gas-powered lawnmowers, trimmers, snow blowers or other machines in the garage.
    • Keep the door between your house and the garage closed.
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