Breathe Easy Without Carbon Monoxide

Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning

Not all dangers in the home are obvious. Carbon monoxide gas is particularly dangerous because it is silent and odourless. Learn how to detect carbon monoxide in the home and keep your family safe.

Breathe Easy Without Carbon Monoxide

Modern homes are tightly sealed and well insulated for energy-efficiency. The one drawback is that any pollutants in the home will have a hard time escaping.

1. Household pollutants

The main sources of concern are:

  • carbon monoxide
  • tobacco smoke
  • biological pollutants, such as mold and dust mites
  • asbestos
  • radon
  • lead

It doesn't take much effort to check for these problems, and the solutions are usually not very expensive. Here, we look at how you can protect your home from carbon monoxide — one of the most infamous household pollutants.

2. What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning occurs when a person has inhaled this lethal gas. It may get into the house atmosphere from an improperly vented furnace or chimney, or a gas hot water heater with a corroded or improperly installed vent pipe. Other potential sources are a barbecue grill operated in an enclosed space or a car left running in a closed garage. While CO is not explosive, it kills hundreds of people yearly through asphyxiation and sends thousands more to hospital emergency rooms for treatment. It's important to recognize the symptoms of CO poisoning and learn to protect yourself and your family.

3. Colour and odour

CO is colourless and odourless, so you are not likely to notice its presence if there is a leak in your home or if auto exhaust penetrates from the garage.

But depending on the concentration of carbon monoxide in the air, the exposure time, how susceptible you are and how heavily you breathe while you're exposed, you'll experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dizziness and weakness
  • headache
  • blurred vision
  • loss of coordination.

4. What to do if you suspect a leak

If you suspect a leak and you can identify the source, turn the source off immediately or call your gas company or a repair service for help. Meanwhile, open windows and doors to clear the air. If inspection indicates unacceptable levels of CO, its source should be identified and repairs made to the unit or its venting system.

5. Maintenance

Good heating system maintenance reduces the chances of carbon monoxide poisoning. Follow recommended guidelines for regularly cleaning and inspecting any furnaces, wood stoves, space heaters, chimneys and other CO-producing equipment.

6. Detectors

Install CO detectors in the furnace room, near the fireplace and close by sleeping areas. Look for detectors approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM). The best detectors are capable of reading low levels of CO, so you'll know about a problem before it becomes serious. Another good feature to look for is "peak-level memory," which records and saves high-level readings even after they decline; this is important where CO levels fluctuate depending upon the amount of use the faulty equipment gets. Like smoke detectors, CO detectors work only if installed properly and equipped with live batteries.

Having a good understanding of carbon monoxide and its harmful effects will help prevent leaks in your home.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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