Health Canada



Health Canada

February 04, 2014 11:45 ET

Harper Government Reminds Canadians Carbon Monoxide Detectors Can Prevent Illness, Save Lives

Quality of indoor air an important factor in health

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Feb. 4, 2014) - Health Canada

Eve Adams, Parliamentary Secretary of Health, on behalf of the Minister of Health, Rona Ambrose, held a demonstration to remind Canadians of the importance of using a carbon monoxide detector to alert homeowners of unsafe levels of the gas in their homes.

Parliamentary Secretary Adams demonstrated the use of a detector to raise awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide in the home.

Health Canada encourages residents to protect their health and safety by properly installing and regularly testing carbon monoxide detectors in their home. These detectors provide a warning if carbon monoxide levels pose a threat to health. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colourless gas, and high levels of carbon monoxide can be deadly. A detector is the only way to identify a problem.

Sources of carbon monoxide include furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves and other household appliances that burn fuel. If these devices are improperly installed or malfunction, they can release carbon monoxide into the home. Other sources include exhaust fumes from vehicles and gas-powered equipment like snow blowers and generators, and fuel-burning cooking appliances like barbeques and camp stoves.

People can maintain safe carbon monoxide levels in their homes by keeping their furnace and other fuel-burning appliances well maintained and inspected regularly; never idling their car or other gas-powered equipment in their garage; and never using a generator indoors or close to a window.

Quick Facts

  • You can't taste, see or smell carbon monoxide, so a detector is the only way to alert you that levels are high.

  • Carbon monoxide reduces the body's ability to carry oxygen in the blood and exposure can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, and at high levels, coma or death.

  • There were 380 accidental carbon monoxide poisoning deaths in Canada from 2000 to 2009 according to Statistics Canada.

  • Proper use and maintenance of fuel-burning appliances and other gas-powered equipment is key to keeping carbon monoxide levels in the home low.

Quotes

"Our Government is encouraging all Canadians to install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. You can't see, smell or taste carbon monoxide so a detector is the only way to alert you if there's a problem."

Eve Adams, Parliamentary Secretary for Health

"Every year, our team responds to close calls involving carbon monoxide in the home and the consequences can be tragic. Carbon monoxide detectors are just as key to health and safety as smoke alarms, and we appreciate the efforts of the Government to raise awareness on this important issue."

Fire Chief John deHooge, Ottawa Fire Services

"Health care teams are continually on the lookout for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, but prevention is the best defence. A carbon monoxide detector is a valuable ally in protecting your family."

Dr. Charles-Antoine Breau, Emergency physician, Hôpital Montfort

Related Products

Factsheet - Carbon Monoxide

Associated Links

Health Canada - Carbon Monoxide

Health Canada news releases are available on the Internet at: www.healthcanada.gc.ca/media

FACT SHEET

Carbon Monoxide

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that forms whenever you burn fuel like propane, natural gas, gasoline, oil, coal and wood. Because it is colourless, odourless and tasteless, it can't be detected without a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide can cause health problems before people even notice it is present.

What are the effects of carbon monoxide on health?

When you inhale carbon monoxide, it reduces your body's ability to carry oxygen in your blood. The health effects can be very serious.

Exposure to low levels of CO may cause:

  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • flu-like symptoms
  • impaired motor functions (like difficulty walking or problems with balance)

At high levels, or if you are exposed to low levels for long periods of time, symptoms may include:

  • dizziness
  • chest pain
  • poor vision
  • difficulty thinking

At very high levels, CO exposure can cause:

  • convulsions
  • coma
  • death

What are the sources of carbon monoxide (CO)?

Sources of CO include furnaces, water heaters/boilers, wood stoves, and other appliances that run on fuels. If these devices are improperly installed or malfunction, they can release CO into your home.

Other sources of CO include:

- exhaust fumes from vehicles or other gas-powered equipment, like lawnmowers, snow blowers, and power generators, used indoors or in your attached garage

- chimneys that are blocked or dirty

- fuel-burning cooking appliances, like propane, natural gas or charcoal grills

- tobacco smoke

How can you reduce your risk?

Take these steps to protect your family from exposure to CO in your home.

Put at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home to warn you if CO levels pose an immediate threat

- Put CO detectors in hallways outside bedrooms where you can hear them.

- Choose CO detectors that are certified by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or the Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC).

- Follow the manufacturer's directions for installing, testing and replacing detectors. Store the manual in a handy place.

- If your CO alarm sounds, leave your home right away. Call local authorities (9-1-1) and do not go back home until a professional has fixed the problem.

- Keep in mind that CO detectors and smoke detectors have different purposes. You need both to stay safe.

CO detectors are designed to prevent immediate carbon monoxide poisoning. A carbon monoxide detector is not a substitute for proper installation and maintenance of fuel-burning appliances.

Maintenance is the key to keeping CO levels low

- Make sure fuel-burning appliances, like furnaces, fireplaces and gas stoves, are well maintained and working properly.

- Have a professional inspect appliances and clean chimneys at least once a year. Make sure your chimney is not blocked by snow or ice, bird nests or other debris.

Leave it outside

- Never use a barbecue or fuel-burning camping equipment inside your home, garage, vehicle, camper or tent or close to a window.

- Never use a power generator indoors or in an attached garage (even with the door open) or close to a window.

- Don't use kerosene or oil space heaters or lamps in enclosed areas, unless they are specifically designed for indoor use and in a well-ventilated room.

- Keep your home completely free of tobacco smoke.

No idling

- Never let vehicles idle in the garage, even when the garage door is open.

- Never run gas-powered lawnmowers, trimmers, snow blowers or other gas-powered equipment in the garage.

- Keep the door between your house and the garage closed when not needed and seal leaks between the garage and the home.

Contact Information

  • Michael Bolkenius
    Office of the Honourable Rona Ambrose
    Federal Minister of Health
    (613) 957-0200

    Health Canada
    Media Relations
    (613) 957-2983

    Public Inquiries:
    (613) 957-2991
    1-866 225-0709