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Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless gas that is produced as a result of incomplete burning of carbon-containing fuels. Many Canadians die every year and thousands of others become ill or need medical attention because of carbon monoxide poisoning related to residential combustion appliances.

Any fuel-burning device that is not adequately vented and maintained can be a potential source of CO, including:

  • fireplaces, wood and coal stoves, space heaters
  • gas appliances (e.g.,furnaces, ranges, ovens, water heaters, clothes dryers,
  • charcoal grills, camp stoves
  • automobile exhaust fumes
  • gas-powered lawn mowers and tools
  • power tools
  • cigarettes and second-hand smoke

Health Effects of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide exposures especially affect unborn babies, infants and people with anemia or a history of respiratory or heart disease. Breathing in low levels of carbon monoxide can cause fatigue and increase chest pain in people with chronic heart disease.

Breathing in higher levels of carbon monoxide causes flu-like symptoms such as:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • weakness
  • sleepiness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • confusion
  • feeling disoriented.

At very high levels, carbon monoxide causes loss of consciousness and death.

What You Can Do:

Take these simple steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home:

  • Install a carbon monoxide detector with an audible alarm in your home and garage. CO detectors should meet Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards; have a long-term warranty; and be easily self-tested and reset to ensure proper functioning. For maximum effectiveness during sleeping hours, carbon monoxide detectors should be placed as close to sleeping areas as possible.
  • Make sure appliances are installed and working according to manufacturers' instructions and local building codes
  • Have the heating system, chimney and flue inspected and cleaned at least once a year by a technician certified under the Wood Energy Technical Training (WETT) Program or, in Quebec, the Association des professionnels du chauffage (APC).
  • Do not use ovens and gas ranges to heat your home.
  • Do not burn charcoal inside a home, cabin, recreational vehicle or camper.
  • Do not operate gasoline-powered engines in confined areas such as garages or basements.
  • Never leave your car or mower running in a closed garage.
  • Make sure your furnace has adequate intake of outside air.
  • Choose vented appliances whenever possible.
  • Use kerosene space heaters and unvented gas heaters only in well ventilated rooms.