Technical Safety BC warns of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning

Vancouver, BC - With two carbon monoxide (CO) incidents this week in BC – one in Barriere, near Kamloops and one in Vancouver – Technical Safety BC is reminding British Columbians of the danger of this deadly, colourless and odorless gas.

CO 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.

“It’s important to remember that if you are operating gas appliances, there is a potential for a CO issue,” said Technical Safety BC’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 can sometimes create hazards when adequate combustion air is not supplied. That’s why it’s essential to make sure all appliances are serviced, tested, and deemed to be working properly before firing them up each year.”

Each year numerous carbon monoxide incidents are reported in BC. Technical Safety BC incident data suggests these occurrences happen most frequently in residences and involve residential furnaces, boilers, water heaters or portable gas-fired equipment.

How to prevent CO poisoning:

  1. Install Canadian-approved CO alarms in all areas of your home, especially near sleeping areas. Be sure to read and follow the alarm manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Have gas-fired appliances (e.g., furnaces, fireplaces, gas stoves, hot water heaters, boilers, etc.) installed, serviced, tested and regularly inspected only by a licensed gas contractor (find a listing on Technical Safety BC’s website). It is recommended that all gas appliances be serviced and tested at least annually or more frequently if required by the manufacturer.
  3. Keep the area around your gas-fired heating appliance clear for proper air circulation.
  4. Keep all air ducts, vents, and screens free of obstructions.
  5. Never operate portable fuel-burning devices (e.g., camp stoves, lanterns, generators, lawn equipment, barbecues) indoors or in closed spaces.
  6. Do not leave a vehicle engine running inside an enclosed garage or space.
  7. Do not close a fireplace or stove damper before the fire is completely out.

Know the symptoms of CO poisoning

  • MILD symptoms can be mistaken for the flu or food poisoning. They include headache, nausea, and dizziness.
  • STRONG symptoms include breathlessness, confusion or hallucinations.
  • SEVERE symptoms are life-threatening and can include collapse, convulsions or unconsciousness.

If you suspect CO exposure

  1. Get outside immediately.
  2. Once safely outdoors, call 9-1-1 for help. 
  3. Seek immediate medical attention. CO poisoning can be fatal if left untreated. A doctor can prescribe a blood test to measure the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood.

Carbon monoxide incidents that have caused damage or injury, or hazards that could potentially harm people or property, can be reported to Technical Safety BC 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1 866 566 7233.

About Technical Safety BC
Technical Safety BC, formerly BC Safety Authority, 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, it works with industry to reduce safety risks through assessment, education and outreach, enforcement, and research.



Media contact:

Technical Safety BC


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