March 8, 2009

Emergency Preparedness: Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colourless and odourless gas. It is almost the same density of air, not heavier or lighter, so it mixes freely with it. Because you can't see, taste or smell it, carbon monoxide can kill you before you know it's present. CO is breathed in and bonds with the hemoglobin in your blood, displacing the oxygen you need. It will eventually displace enough to suffocate you from the inside out, resulting in death or brain injury.

Where does Carbon Monoxide come from?
It is a by-product of anything that burns. It comes from gas or oil fired appliances such as furnaces, dryers, stoves, water heaters, fireplaces and barbecues. It can also come from wood burning stoves and fireplaces and automobile engines.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can be mistaken for those accompanying the flu. There are several health-related clues that will alert you to the possibility that you are experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning. They are:

  • Persistent severe headaches.
  • Dizziness, blurred vision.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Confusion, disorientation, loss of muscle control.
  • Sleepiness, but never feeling rested.
  • Rapid heart beat, pulse, or a tightening of the chest.
  • Chest pain (angina) when exercising.
  • Fainting, unconsciousness.
  • Feeling sick and tired at home, but fine out of the house.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Look for a detector that is ULC listed to the Canadian Gas Association (CGA) standard #619. The ULC mark guarantees that the product has passed tests in the areas of performance, safety and accuracy.

Where do I put my Carbon Monoxide detector?
Near the sleeping area, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which recommends at least one detector per household. A second detector located near the home's heating source adds an extra measure of safety.