Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless gas that can be
produced from a number of sources such as exhaust from a car or woodstove,
or a natural gas appliance that is not functioning or appropriately
ventilated. You can't see it, smell it, or taste it; but carbon monoxide can
cause serious harm.
If you suspect CO poisoning in your home
- Call 911
- Ensure all people and pets leave the home
- Seek medical attention immediately
- Call Union Gas (1 877 969-0999) or a Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA)
registered heating contractor for an inspection (there will be a
charge for this inspection)
- If your CO alarm sounds and there are no medical symptoms, open
all doors and windows, then call a TSSA registered heating
contractor for an inspection
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
If CO is inhaled, it depletes the amount of oxygen in your red blood
cells, resulting in specific symptoms. Depending on the amount inhaled
and the length of exposure, symptoms may include the following:
- Low Concentration - Slight headache and/or shortage of
breath during moderate physical activity
- Higher Concentration - Sever headache, dizziness,
nausea, vomiting, mental confusion, weakness, vision and hearing
impairment, collapse or fainting during exertion, loss of muscle control
- Extreme Concentration - Unconsciousness, brain damage
Signs you may have CO in your home
Keep your eyes open for the following signs of carbon
monoxide in your home:
- Stuffy, stale or smelly air (e.g. the smell of
something over-heating or burning)
- Dripping water condensation on your windows (This is a
reliable sign if you've already taken steps to reduce moisture
production. It could also mean your humidifier is set too high.)
- Backdraft or soot from a fireplace, chimney or other
fuel burning equipment
A yellow burner flame, instead of the normal clear blue flame. This does
not apply to natural gas fireplaces in which the yellow flame is
intentional for a pleasing appearance.
- A pilot light that keeps going out, or the smell of
unusual gases in your home. Even though carbon monoxide is odourless, it
is sometimes accompanied by exhaust gases.
If you detect these signs, turn off the equipment and
contact a licensed heating contractor.
Prevent CO in your home
Natural gas has a safety record that’s second to none and there are
strict codes that govern the installation and operation of natural gas
equipment and appliances. While well-maintained equipment can operate
safely for many years, malfunctions can occur which may increase the
risk of CO entering your home. You can easily reduce this risk by:
- Have your fuel-burning appliances inspected annually by a Technical
Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) registered heating contractor to
identify and fix any potential problems that could prevent your
appliances from operating safely. Have the contractor check your natural
gas fireplace in the same service.
- Ensure your external exhaust outlets for furnaces, fireplaces, water
heaters and clothes dryers are clear of ice, snow, birds nests or other
potential obstructions, so that carbon monoxide emitted by these
appliances does not build up in your home or business.
- Install CO alarms on every level of your home to warn you of the
presence of CO and regularly check the batteries.
- Check your chimney too!
If your chimney is plugged, you could be breathing the exhaust from
your furnace, fireplace or woodstove. Stay healthy by checking your
chimney in the following manner:
Examine the exterior brickwork from top to bottom. Make sure that there
are no chalky deposits, moisture stains, cracks, or loose mortar.
Empty the clean-out pit at the base of your chimney. Check its contents
for mortar, brick, bird's nests or stones. (The clean-out pit is located
either inside or outside the house. Look for a metal frame with a door,
or a "Y" or "T" fitting with a plug installed at the chimney connection
for the furnace vent. The clean-out door and the plug should be kept
closed at all times.)
Check for chimney obstructions by positioning a mirror in the clean-out
pit, and experimenting to find the angle that will allow you to see
daylight clearly. (If you have an offset chimney, call a chimney
specialist. If your appliances use a metal vent, the exterior portion of
vent above the roof should be properly maintained. A coat of latex paint
will protect it from weather and rusting.)
If you see any evidence of a deteriorating chimney, contact a
qualified chimney contractor.