What you need to know about carbon monoxide safety

Colder temperatures have us snuggling into our homes, warm and cozy. Windows are shut tight against bone-chilling winds, the furnace hums, the flames from the gas fireplace or wood stove flicker casting a comforting glow. Before enjoying the warmth and atmosphere, make safety a priority by protecting yourself and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odorless, poisonous gas that is caused by incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials such as natural gas, propane, oil, wood and coal. It can be fatal or cause serious injury as it displaces the oxygen in your blood, depriving your brain, heart and other vital organs of oxygen, causing loss of consciousness and suffocation. Potential sources of carbon monoxide in your home can include furnaces, fireplaces, wood stoves, space heaters, water heaters and more.

Start by installing a carbon monoxide detector on every level or your home, especially near sleeping areas and near fuel-burning appliances. Since carbon monoxide is heavier than oxygen, install the detectors low to the ground. If you use plug-in detectors, ensure that you use ones with a battery back-up and change the battery once a year at the same time as those in your smoke detectors.

Have flues and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year to make sure debris, birds’ nests or snow and ice have not caused blockages.

Make sure that all fuel-burning appliances are well-ventilated and serviced every year by a qualified service technician.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can imitate flu symptoms. If your carbon monoxide detector goes off and anyone in your home is experiencing dizziness, nausea or headaches, have everyone leave the house immediately, including your pets, and call 9-1-1 from a neighbour’s home. Do not return to your home until the problem has been identified and your home aired out.

For more information and tips regarding the prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning, visit the Canada Safety Council website, and enjoy your home in comfort and safety!