If you’re operating gas appliances in your home, you need to be in the know about CO

New Westminster, BC, September 29, 2016 — Now that fall is here, BC Safety Authority (BCSA) reminds British Columbians to protect themselves against the risks of carbon monoxide (CO) exposure by checking that all gas appliances are functioning properly and making sure CO detectors are working. 

“It’s important to remember that if you are operating gas appliances, you could have a CO issue,” says BCSA’s Gas Safety Manager, Brad Wyatt. “As the weather cools, people tend to seal up their homes to avoid drafts and reduce heating expenses. But an air-tight home could create hazards when adequate combustion air is not available. It’s essential to make sure all appliances are serviced and working properly before firing them up.”

Carbon monoxide is produced by burning carbon fuels such as propane, natural gas, oil, wood, charcoal, alcohol, kerosene or gasoline. Exposure to CO interferes with the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, which can result in serious illness or death.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure could initially include flu-like symptoms such as light headedness, headaches, nausea, fatigue, chest pains, vomiting, convulsions, confusion and dizziness. Children who are affected by lower levels of CO are at particular risk. If you suspect you or your family has been exposed to CO seek medical attention immediately. Other signs you may have a CO issue include are condensation on windows, dying plants, or having an entire family sick at the same time. 

Last year, BCSA’s safety officers investigated reports of four carbon monoxide related cases, which resulted in one fatality and seven injuries. From 2007 to 2014, a total of 76 CO-related incidents were reported to, and investigated by, BCSA. These incidents resulted in nine fatalities and 149 non-fatal injuries. Most of these incidents occurred during the colder months of October to April and many involved malfunctioning or improperly venting residential furnaces or water heaters.

To prevent CO poisonings or related incidents BCSA recommends the following:

  • All gas-fired appliances – including boilers, furnaces, hot water tanks, stoves, dryers and fireplaces – should be inspected and serviced by a licensed gas contractor at least once a year.
  • Ensure ALL combustion air supply and fresh air intakes into your home remain unobstructed and any screens are free of dust and debris.  
  • Always follow the equipment certified user guides or manuals before operating.
  • All households be equipped with Canadian-certified CO detectors, ideally located on each floor of the home, close to bedrooms or sleeping areas. Detectors should be tested annually or as recommended in the certified instructions and when applicable batteries replaced.
  • NEVER disable or deactivate CO detectors due to alarms.
  • Gas work must be done by licensed contractors that hold a current Class A or Class B Gas Fitter or Gas Appliance Service Certificate of Qualification from BC Safety Authority. (BCSA maintains a list of contractors on our website. Select “gas” under “type.”)
  • When using a wood burning fireplace, crack open a window or alternate to allow fresh air flow into the home.

For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning and gas appliance safety, as well as information about how to choose the appropriate CO detector or locate a licensed gas contractor in your area, visit: /carbon-monoxide.

About BC Safety Authority

BC Safety Authority (BCSA) is an independent, self-funded organization mandated to oversee the safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment. In addition to issuing permits, licences and certificates, BCSA works with industry to reduce safety risks through assessment, education and outreach, enforcement and research.

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