It's been two years since regulations came into effect requiring the installation of carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in every home. Yet every year 50 Canadians still perish from carbon monoxide poisoning. Known as 'the silent killer', CO is a tasteless, odorless, invisible gas that is a product of combustion. If you're thinking that there's no way for carbon monoxide to enter your home, you may be surprised by some of the sources. It is found in fumes of automobiles, small gasoline engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, fireplaces, gas ranges and heating systems. Danger can occur when there is a 'problem with ventilation, creating a buildup in an enclosed or semi-enclosed space'.
The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, chest pain and confusion, though many fall unconscious before they can remove themselves from the affected area. Over time, CO poisoning will cause irreversible brain damage and even death.
If your home is still without a CO detector, head to your local hardware store and pick one up for under $50. There are a few different types of detectors on the market - some are battery operated, some are hard-wired into the wiring of your home and some simply plug into an electrical outlet. Because CO mixes with air and doesn't rise like smoke does, it can be placed at any height in a room but should always be located near sleeping areas.
Be sure to have a conversation with children or elderly relatives living in the home so that they understand the purpose of a CO detector and what action they should take if they hear the alarm. The alarms typically emit a different sound than a standard smoke detector, so make sure your family knows the difference. Just like with smoke alarms, when the carbon monoxide detectors goes off, leave the building and call 911 from a safe place.
For more information about carbon monoxide safety, visit the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs at http://www.oafc.on.ca/carbon-monoxide.