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Carbon monoxide FAQs

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that can put your home and family at risk for illness or even death. Read on the learn more about carbon monoxide and how you can ensure your family remains safe.

What is carbon monoxide (CO)?

  • CO is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless poison gas that can be fatal when inhaled

  • It is sometimes called the “silent killer”.

  • Carbon monoxide is the product of incomplete combustion.

  • Carbon monoxide inhibits the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen.

  • CO can be produced when burning any fossil fuel: gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil and wood.

Where does carbon monoxide (CO) come from?

  • Any fuel burning appliance that is malfunctioning or improperly installed.

  • Possible sources include furnaces, gas range/stove, gas clothes dryer, water heater, portable fuel burning space heaters, fireplaces and wood burning stoves.

  • Vehicles and other combustion engines running in an attached garage.

  • Blocked chimney or flues.

  • Cracked or loose furnace exchanger.

  • Back drafting and changes in air pressure.

  • Operating a grill in an enclosed space.

How can I protect myself from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning?

The only way to detect if there is carbon monoxide in your home is with a carbon monoxide alarm.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning?

Initial symptoms are similar to the flu with no fever, and can include dizziness, severe headaches, nausea, sleepiness, fatigue/weakness and disorientation/confusion.

Does carbon monoxide (CO) affect certain individuals sooner than others?

Everyone is susceptible, but unborn babies, young children, pregnant women, senior citizens and people with heart or respiratory problems are especially vulnerable.

What are the effects of being exposed to carbon monoxide (CO)?

  • Common Mild Exposure – Slight headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, flu-like symptoms.

  • Common Medium Exposure – Throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, fast heart rate.

  • Common Extreme Exposure – Convulsions, unconsciousness, brain damage, heart and lung failure followed by death.

If you experience even mild CO poisoning symptoms, immediately consult a physician!

Are there any preventative steps I can take to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning?

  • Every year, have the heating system, vents, chimney, and flue inspected by a qualified technician.

  • Regularly examine vents and chimneys for improper connections, visible rust and stains.

  • Install and operate appliances according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Only purchase appliances that have been approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

  • Never use a gas range/stove to heat the home.

Do I need a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm ? Where should it be installed?

Every home with at least one fuel burning appliance/heater, attached garage or fireplace should have a CO alarm. If the home has only one CO alarm, it should be installed in the main bedroom, or in the hallway outside of the sleeping area. For maximum protection, an alarm should be installed on every level of the home. Place at least 15 feet away from fuel burning appliances. Make sure nothing is covering or obstructing the unit. Do not place in dead air spaces, or next to a window or door. Test the CO alarm once a month by pressing the test/reset button. Unplug the unit and vacuum with soft brush attachment, or wipe with a clean, dry cloth to remove accumulated dust monthly.

Should my carbon monoxide (CO) alarm have a digital display? What does the peal level memory function do?

A digital display allows you to see if there is a reading, and respond before it becomes a dangerous situation. Peak level memory stores the highest recorded reading prior to being reset. This feature enables you to know if there was a reading while you were away from home.

Who should I call if my carbon monoxide (CO) alarm goes off?

If anyone is experiencing symptoms you need to get into fresh air and call 911 from a neighbour’s home. If no one is experiencing symptoms, you should call the fire department or a qualified technician from a neighbour’s home, to have the problem inspected. If you are unable to leave the home to call for help, open the doors and windows, and turn off all possible sources while you are waiting for assistance to arrive. Under no circumstance should an alarm be ignored!

If you have concerns or questions about carbon monoxide detectors, contact RMS to see how we can help.

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