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Carbon Monoxide Safety

Beat this silent killer by arming yourself with the facts.

 

Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week

The Alberta government’s Office of the Fire Commissioner invites you to support and participate in Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week from November 1 – 7, 2018.

Make sure you have a working alarm in your home and that you are testing it regularly.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide, commonly referred to as CO, is an invisible, odourless, colourless, toxic gas.

How is it produced?

Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete burning of common fuels such as gas, coal, natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene and methane, or any other combustible material such as wood, cloth or paper. Fuels burn incompletely when there isn’t an adequate supply of oxygen.

Potential sources

Potential sources found in your home, camper/RV and garage include:

  • Fireplaces
  • Clogged chimney flues
  • Water heaters
  • Furnaces
  • Gas space heaters
  • Wood and gas stoves
  • Charcoal grills and barbeques
  • Vehicle exhaust fumes
  • Generators
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Vehicle exhaust, especially from attached garages or vehicles parked close to ventilation intakes

Signs and symptoms

Health effects vary depending on a person’s age and pre-existing medical conditions, the amount of carbon monoxide in the air and the length of exposure.

Exposure can cause headaches, confusion, dizziness, weakness, nausea and other flu-like symptoms.

In more severe cases, exposure can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, impaired vision, convulsions, coma and potentially death.

How can I prevent it?

The risk of poisoning decreases significantly when appliances are regularly maintained and properly ventilated.

  • Fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces, stoves and fireplaces, as well as chimneys and vents should be cleaned and inspected every year before cold weather sets in.
  • Vents for fuel-burning appliances should always be clear of debris.
  • Gas and charcoal barbeques should be used outside, away from all building openings.
  • Portable fuel-burning generators should be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from building openings.
  • Portable fuel-burning heaters should be vented properly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Other ways to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • Never using the stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Opening the flue for adequate ventilation before using a fireplace.
  • Never running a vehicle or other fueled engine or motor inside a garage, even if the garage doors are open.
  • Always removing a vehicle from the garage immediately after starting it.

Carbon monoxide alarms

Buying an alarm

Alarms are available in most hardware, department and electronics stores.

Ensure that your alarm has been approved and labelled by a recognized Certification Body such as Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC), Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). All alarms have an expiration date.

What to do if the alarm sounds

Follow the steps below if you or anyone in your home is suffering from symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  1. Get everyone out of the home immediately.
  2. Call 911 or your local emergency services number from outside the building.
  3. Do not return to your home until an official advises that it is safe to do so.

If your alarm sounds and no one is suffering from symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, check to see if the battery needs replacing or the alarm has reached its end-of-life before calling 911.

Testing and replacing the alarm

  • Alarms should be tested monthly by pressing the test button.
  • Replace batteries every year.
  • Replace alarms according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Know the sound of the alarm

Carbon monoxide alarms sounds different than smoke alarms. Test both alarms monthly and make sure everyone in your home knows the difference between the two.

It is also important to know the difference between the carbon monoxide alarm's low-battery warning, end-of-life warning and an emergency alarm – consult the alarm manufacturer’s instructions for detailed information.

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  • Date modified: 2018-11-07