Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, colourless and odourless gas that can be extremely toxic to humans and animals. Carbon dioxide forms when there is not enough oxygen available to form carbon dioxide, most often in combustion processes that occur in everyday household appliances and systems.
Faulty fuel-burning appliances such as heaters, furnaces and stoves as well as cars running in closed garages can all lead to carbon monoxide poisoning and death. Indoor fireplaces with chimney blockages, electric generators and gas-powered tools used indoors or in enclosed spaces can also lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide, because of its non-irritating and invisible nature, is extremely difficult to detect until it is typically too late. It renders the blood incapable of delivering oxygen to bodily tissues. Symptoms of carbon dioxide exposure or poisoning are usually vomiting, headache, nausea and lethargy, and neurological symptoms including confusing and disorientation. These symptoms are not always overly severe or obvious and because of their generic nature they can often be confused for something else such as the flu, increasing the importance of the carbon monoxide detector.
Having a carbon monoxide detector in your home can be equally as important as a smoke detector. A carbon monoxide detector will give you and your family fair warning when it comes to evacuating the home and waiting for help to arrive that can help find the source of the carbon monoxide. Be sure to look for a carbon monoxide detector that is approved by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
Aside from using a properly maintained and installed carbon monoxide detector, other steps you can take to protect your family include:
- Ensure your fuel-burning appliances are properly working and inspected by a professional.
- Have your chimney inspected for cracks, blockages and corrosion.
- Make sure that heating and hot water appliances are properly stored, and if the room they are in is small, ensure there is adequate air circulation.
- Never start your car in the garage if possible, although if the car is parked in the garage open the door before starting the car and drive out immediately. Frequently clean the ductwork for any clothes dryers ensuring no lint buildup or other blockages.