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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Carbon Monoxide: Protecting your family.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless and odourless gas which is a common by-product of the combustion of fossil fuels. The burning of natural gas, propane, oil, wood, kerosene and coal produce CO. Exhaust from your car or gas mower also produce this potentially dangerous gas.

Because you can’t see, taste or smell it carbon dioxide cannot easily be detected. It can cause serious health problems ranging from flu like symptoms with mild exposure to unconsciousness and death with extreme exposure. Even low levels of CO can be harmful because it accumulates in the blood and depletes the ability of blood to carry oxygen.

The risk of CO poisoning can be minimized by installing at least one CO detector in your home. Select a unit that is stamped with the Canadian Standard Association (CSA) label. Detectors are available either battery operated or plug in units that plug into an electrical outlet. Care must be taken to replace batteries on a regular basis and plug in devices should not be connected to an outlet controlled by a wall switch. Detectors should be replaced at least every five years.

Most manufacturers specify where you should locate their CO detector. In general, the best place is close to the sleeping areas where you will hear it while sleeping. Follow the manufacturers instructions and install a detector on each floor containing a sleeping area. Test the units regularly to confirm they are operational.

Reducing the risk of CO entering the home is the best defense. To reduce risk:

Have a qualified technician service fuel burning appliances yearly
Have a qualified technician inspect chimneys, dampers and vents for cracks, blockages, corrosion or holes.
Ensure adequate air supply to furnace and hot water appliance rooms, particularly when powerful kitchen fans are used. A qualified technician can check that fumes are not pulled back down the chimney.
Do not start a vehicle or lawnmower in a closed garage. Open the door first and pull the car out immediately. Shut the door to prevent exhaust fumes from being drawn into the house.
Avoid the use of kerosene space heaters.
Maintain the seals around entry doors from the garage to the house and install an automatic closer on the door.
Seal all wall penetrations between an attached garage and the house.
Never operate a barbeque indoors or in an attached garage.

If your detector sounds an alarm, evacuate the house immediately including pets. Notify your neighbours if you live in a duplex, row house or apartment and call your gas utility, heating contractor or fire department.