Staying safe from radon and carbon monoxide

July 28, 2015

Exposure to radon and carbon monoxide can be dangerous or even fatal. Because both gases are invisible and odourless, you must take the following steps to rid your house of them. 

Staying safe from radon and carbon monoxide

Test your home for radon

  • Even if you live in a low-risk area, you'd be wise to check your home's radon levels.
  • You can buy kits that include free lab analysis.
  • Because false readings sometimes occur, repeat the test in a few weeks.
  • Never rely on your neighbour's tests, as radon levels can vary dramatically in structures that are only a few feet apart.
  • If your radon levels are consistently high, have a professional assess your home's problems and install a radon mitigation system.

Before you sell

  • Have your home tested for radon before you put it on the market. Otherwise the deal might fall through upon inspection, and the offer might decrease dramatically or fall through completely.

Know the signs

  • Inhaling carbon monoxide causes headaches, dizziness, nausea and drowsiness. Get anyone suffering these symptoms into the open air quickly.
  • Have someone call EMS, and administer CPR if you're qualified. Once the person is safe, quickly open all doors and windows of the contaminated room, turn off any combustion appliances and leave the house.
  • Call your fire department and report what's happened.
  • Before turning your fuel-burning appliances back on, make sure a qualified serviceperson checks them.

Install a carbon monoxide detector

  • The best models have test buttons and digital displays that show the room's level of carbon monoxide. All sound an alarm when levels are unacceptable.

Test your detector once a month

  • Hold the test button for 10 to 15 seconds; if the alarm doesn't sound, replace the battery. If that doesn't work, the unit is malfunctioning. Replace it.
  • If your unit has no test button, hold burning incense near it; the alarm should sound within five minutes.

Check your furnace's flame

  • If it's yellow, the fuel is not burning thoroughly and may be releasing carbon monoxide into the air. Have the furnace's combustion regulated so the flame burns blue with a yellow halo.

Minimize the risk of exposure to radon

  • Never linger in places where radon buildup is likely to be greatest.
  • Increase the ventilation throughout your home, particularly in the basement.
  • Don't smoke indoors. Smoke combined with radon makes you even more susceptible to cancer.
  • Install a vapour barrier in your crawl space and always keep the space's vents open.

Six ways to minimize your carbon monoxide exposure

  • Have a technician check and service your heating system, chimneys and vents annually.
  • Never use gas appliances to heat your home.
  • If a pilot light on your stove or water heater goes out, re-light it immediately. Before doing so, be sure the air is free of gas that may have escaped while the pilot light was out.
  • Never operate fuel-burning appliances inside your home, garage or any enclosed space unless they are safely vented to the outside.
  • Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open. Carbon monoxide may seep into the house.
  • On every floor of your home and near sleeping areas, install a carbon monoxide detector that meets the requirements of the current ULC standard. Make sure it is not blocked by furniture or draperies.
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