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Carbon Monoxide Awareness

Carbon Monoxide Awareness Brochure [PDF]

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 may create unsafe levels of CO. In enclosed spaces such as your home, cottage or recreational vehicle, even a small amount of CO is dangerous.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?

Exposure to CO can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, burning eyes, confusion, disorientation, drowsiness and even loss of consciousness. When inhaled, carbon monoxide interferes with the body's ability to absorb oxygen, and 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?

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 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, snowblowers) 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.
Be aware of these Danger Signs!

  • You or other members of your family are experiencing the symptoms of CO exposure.
  • You notice a sharp, penetrating odour or smell of gas when your furnace or other fuel-burning appliance turns on.
  • The air feels stale or stuffy.
  • The pilot light of your gas furnace or other fuel-burning appliance goes out.
  • Chalky, white powder forms on the chimney/exhaust vent pipe or soot build up around the exhaust vent.
  • Excessive moisture forms on windows and walls.
  • The alarm of a carbon monoxide detector sounds.
What should you do if you suspect Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

If you or a family member experience any of the above-described danger signs, evacuate immediately, leaving the front door open and seek medical attention. Remember that by dialing 9-1-1 you can reach emergency services. When initially calling 9-1-1 be prepared to provide the following information:
  • your address
  • whether or not anyone is feeling ill with "flu like" symptoms as previously described
  • whether or not everyone has evacuated the residence
The dispatcher will determine the response required based on the answers to the above - most significantly, whether or not anyone is feeling ill. If anyone is feeling ill, medical and fire personnel will be assigned to the call on an emergency basis - medical - to treat any victims and fire - to monitor for CO gas and assist with the other activities.

If no one is feeling ill, you may be advised to contact your local heating contractor or gas company to assist you or, more likely, fire personnel will be dispatched on a routine basis to monitor for CO gas and advise if a "real" carbon monoxide problem exists.

About Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Effective November 16 1999, By-law 245-99 states that all homes must be equipped with a carbon monoxide alarm. Please check specific requirements regarding multi-residential dwellings by contacting the Fire Department at (905) 883-5444.

Only carbon monoxide alarms bearing the new Canadian Standards Association ULC/CGA -6.19 standard or the Underwriters' Laboratories (UL) 2034 standard are recommended. The unit may also have a battery back-up. At least one CO alarm should be installed adjacent to the sleeping area of your home. You may need more than one CO alarm if sleeping areas are located on different levels of your home. CO alarms should not be installed near any fuel-burning appliances. And remember to test the unit every month. Please refer to the manufacturer's instructions for further details regarding proper use and maintenance.

The use of CO alarms that meet these standards can warn you about sudden failures of fuel-burning appliances and are a good second line of defence against CO exposure in your home, cottage and recreational vehicle.

The best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is to ensure all appliances are well-serviced and maintained. Have your furnace and chimney serviced regularly. Don't leave automobiles running in the garage, use barbecues outside only, and operate all gas-powered equipment outdoors, in well-ventilated areas. CO alarms are not a substitute for maintenance by a qualified technician, and safe use of this equipment can help prevent a carbon monoxide hazard.

Office of the Fire Marshal

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