What you need to know

Most people have heard of Carbon Monoxide (CO) and know that it's dangerous.

But it's often a mystery of where it comes from, how it's produced, its physical symptoms, and what precautions can be taken to ensure it doesn't endanger you. Or worse, kill you.

THE LEADING CAUSE OF ACCIDENTAL POISONING DEATHS IN NORTH AMERICA.

Get the right facts about this silent killer that answer:

the more you know...

The better you can practice CO safety. Ensure you (and your family) don't become victims of this toxic gas.

what is co?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas, often referred to as ‘the silent killer’ because you can't see it, touch it or smell it.

This odourless gas is produced as a byproduct of combustion when common fuel-burning appliances and equipment that use natural gas, oil, wood, propane and kerosene, don’t get enough air to burn up completely.

When this happens, CO can build up, especially in a confined room or space – and this can lead to toxic effects on humans and pets.

the more you know...

Carbon monoxide (CO) = The Silent Killer.
Can't see it. Can't touch it. Can't smell it.

Sources of CO

Portable Fuel Heater


Portable Fuel Heater

BBQ


BBQ

Water Heater


Water Heater

Portable Fuel Burner


Portable Fuel Burner

Furnace


Furnace

Car


Car

Blocked Chimney


Chimney

Gas Dryer


Gas Dryer

Gas Stove


Gas Stove

Gas Fireplace


Gas Fireplace

Most of these sources are associated with malfunctioning fuel-burning equipment and appliances – and poor venting and confined spaces, like a furnace room, garage, cabin, tent, RV, boat cabin or camper.

While carbon monoxide doesn’t have an off-season, it certainly has a major presence in the summer, when many of us are dealing with certain fuel-burning equipment that we use on a seasonal basis.

Of course, the cooler seasons often keep us indoors, and confined spaces, poor venting or limited air-flow also contribute to the CO hazard.

Common Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Most Ontario households have, on average, 4-6 appliances that produce carbon monoxide.

These appliances include:

  • Furnace
  • Gas water heater
  • Gas fireplace
  • Gas stove
  • Gas dryer
  • Gas barbecue
  • Portable generators
  • Fuel-burning space heaters

Poor maintenance/Improper venting
Poor maintenance of these appliances, damaged or blocked venting, or inadequate airflow can cause dangerous levels of CO to build up inside your home, garage, cottage – virtually any enclosed space under certain conditions.

TAKE THE CO SAFETY CHALLENGE

How CO Savvy are you about the sources of CO?
Click here to play our game and find out.

Myths and Misconceptions

Following are the top 10 Most common myths and misconceptions
about carbon monoxide.

Myth Carbon monoxide is normally harmless, but can be dangerous at high levels.
Truth Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is dangerous at any level. It's created when fuels like wood, oil and gas burn. Normally, the small amounts caused by our heating equipment are vented to the outside and do not build up inside.

Myth Carbon monoxide has a distinctive odour you can smell.
Truth Carbon monoxide is odourless, colourless and tasteless, which is why it's called the "silent killer."

Myth Carbon monoxide problems are caused by old heating systems.
Truth Carbon monoxide builds when the air circulating through our homes and heating systems doesn't get vented properly. Venting problems such as birds building nests in chimneys can happen in homes of any age.

Myth Fuel-burning equipment like furnaces and fireplaces should be inspected every two to three years to make sure it's safe.
Truth Heating systems (furnaces, fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, and chimneys) should be checked every year by a certified heating technician before the heating season begins.

Myth It's ok to use a gas or charcoal barbecue or run a car in a garage as long as the garage door is open.
Truth There's always the risk that carbon monoxide will leak into the house, even if the garage door is open.

Myth There are no physical symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Truth Carbon monoxide poisoning has symptoms that are similar to the flu: nausea, headache, burning eyes, confusion, drowsiness, and loss of consciousness. The key difference is that there is no fever with CO poisoning. The symptoms tend to disappear when a person gets fresh air. These are all warning signs.

Myth You should only call 911 if your carbon monoxide alarm keeps going off after you've opened the windows and doors.
Truth If anyone feels ill, get everyone, including your pets, out of the house regardless if the alarm is sounding or not. Call 911 or your local fire department for help. Once the source of the CO is found – stay out of your home until repairs are complete. If no one is ill, ventilate the building by opening all windows and doors. Reset the alarm. If it continues to sound, call a certified heating technician to check for carbon monoxide.

If anyone feels ill, get everyone, including your pets, out of the house regardless if the alarm is sounding or not.

Myth Certain levels of carbon monoxide can kill, but survivors can expect a complete recovery.
Truth Many victims of carbon monoxide poisoning recover with treatment. However, in very severe cases, CO poisoning can cause permanent brain damage.

Myth The best way to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning is to have a CO alarm in your home.
Truth The first line of defense against carbon monoxide poisoning is prevention through annual inspections of your home heating equipment, including vents and chimneys. Alarms are a good second line of defense and every home should have one or more.

Myth All carbon monoxide alarms sold in Canada are certified to Canadian Safety standards.
Truth Not all carbon monoxide alarms sold in Canada are certified to Canadian Safety standards. To make sure you're buying one that is certified, look for the CSA or ULC symbols.

the more you know...

The better you can practice CO safety. Ensure you (and your family) don't become victims of this toxic gas.