Get the facts on carbon monoxide poisoning PDF format - 140 kb
What's the big deal?
Hundreds of people die every year as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. In fact, it is the #1 cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America. Knowing the facts can reduce the number of these accidents and save lives.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a gas that you cannot see, smell or taste. It can be produced by gas or oil furnaces, space and water heaters, clothes dryers, ovens, wood stoves and other household appliances that run on
fossil fuels such as wood, gas, oil or coal.
If your home is very well sealed or not well ventilated, the levels of carbon monoxide in the air may easily rise to deadly levels.
Why is carbon monoxide so deadly?
When you breathe in carbon monoxide, it can cause brain damage, suffocation or death. Because you cannot see, smell or taste the deadly gas, poisoning can happen to anyone, any time, anywhere. Everyone is at risk but pregnant women, young children, senior citizens and people with heart and lung problems are at greater risk.
What are the warning signs?
Carbon monoxide poisoning and the common flu seem a lot alike at first. Early warning signs of low-level poisoning include tiredness, headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting and shortness of breath. Your skin may also turn pink or red in response to rising blood pressure. If you are feeling any of these symptoms, ask other members of your household if they are also feeling ill. If so, you may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and should talk to your doctor.
How can you protect yourself in the home?
There are three things you can do to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Have a qualified service technician inspect and clean your fuel-burning appliances and furnace once a year.
- Install at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home, especially outside your bedroom. There are several types of detectors, including battery-operated and plug-in models. Whichever detector you buy, make sure it bears the Underwriters Laboratories Standard 2034 label. If you choose a plug-in model, it must also bear the Canadian Standards Association label. It is a good idea to install a detector on
every level of your home outside sleeping areas.
- Birds' nests, twigs and old mortar in chimneys can block proper ventilation and lead to buildup of carbon monoxide gas in the home. To avoid this problem, have your vent pipe and chimney flues inspected and cleaned once a year by
a qualified technician.
Is there ongoing maintenance?
Install the carbon monoxide detector according to the manufacturer's instructions. This will ensure it works properly. As with all detectors, test your carbon monoxide detector regularly to make sure it is doing its job to protect you. The manual should tell you when and how to test your alarm. Often, you simply press the test button on the detector and listen for the alarm. And remember to check the manual for information on when to buy a new carbon monoxide detector. Like most things in life, carbon monoxide detectors tend to wear out over time.
What should you do if the detector alarm sounds?
If the detector sounds, you and any members of your household should leave your home immediately. From outside the home, call the Fire Department immediately, at 9-1-1, and await their arrival. The Fire Department will inspect your home and try to find the source of the carbon monoxide. Do not return to your home until the problem
has been found and corrected.
For more information on carbon monoxide, please contact Toronto Fire Services at 416-338-9390.