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Carbon Monoxide Awareness

Co safety infographic

The Technical Standards and Safety Authority offers the following information on carbon monoxide awareness. For more information, visit the CO Safety website or contact Essex Fire and Rescue Services.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless and toxic gas and is often referred to as the "silent killer." When inhaled it affects the blood's ability to transport oxygen throughout the body. It can poison the body quickly in high concentrations, or slowly over long periods of time.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, burning eyes, confusion, drowsiness or loss of consciousness. In severe cases, carbon monoxide poisoning can cause brain damage and death. The elderly, children, and people with heart or respiratory conditions may be particularly sensitive to carbon monoxide.

How is carbon monoxide generated in the home?

Carbon monoxide is a by-product of incomplete combustion of fuels such as natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, charcoal, gasoline or wood. This incomplete combustion can occur in any device that depends on burning for energy or heat, such as furnaces, room heaters, fireplaces, hot water heaters, stoves or grills and any gas-powered vehicle or engine.

Automobiles left running in attached garages, gas barbecues operated inside the house, grills or kerosene heaters that are not properly vented, or chimneys or vents that are dirty or plugged may create unsafe levels of carbon monoxide.

When properly installed, maintained and vented, any carbon monoxide produced by these devices will not stay inside the home.

How can unsafe levels of carbon monoxide be detected?

Carbon monoxide can be detected by installing carbon monoxide alarms.

As of April 15, 2015, provincial law requires homeowners and landlords to install CO alarms in homes. Find out more about the new law.

If you suspect carbon monoxide is in your home...

If you or anyone in your home is experiencing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the home immediately and call 9-1-1 to have the fire department respond.

Where should a carbon monoxide alarm be located in the home?

Proper placement of a carbon monoxide alarm is important. In general, the human body is most vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide during sleeping hours, so an alarm should be located in or as near as possible to the sleeping area of the home.

If only one alarm is being installed, it should be located near the sleeping area, where it can wake you if you are asleep.

Where sleeping areas are located in separate parts of the home, an alarm should be provided for each area.

Unlike smoke, which rises to the ceiling, carbon monoxide mixes with air. Recognizing this, a carbon monoxide alarm should be located at knee-height (which is about the same as prone sleeping height). To work properly, a carbon monoxide alarm should not be blocked by furniture, draperies or other obstructions to normal air flow.

If a combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarm is used, it should be located on the ceiling to ensure that it will detect smoke effectively.

Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions for additional information regarding proper installation, use and maintenance.