Carbon Monoxide Safety
What is carbon monoxide and why is it dangerous?
Carbon monoxide is an odourless, tasteless, invisible gas that is produced by burning fuels such as: propane, natural gas, oil, wood, charcoal, alcohol, kerosene, or gasoline — all of which are commonly used in your home, RV, boat, or business.
Exposure to carbon monoxide can be deadly. Carbon monoxide interferes with the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, which can lead to serious illness, severe side effects, or death.
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
- Chest pains
As carbon monoxide builds up in the bloodstream, symptoms change and will magnify. Look out for:
- Increased confusion and drowsiness
- Fast breathing, fast heartbeat, or increased chest pain
- Vision problems
What to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning
If you believe you’re being poisoned by CO, or if your CO alarm goes off, take these steps immediately
- Turn off your appliances
- Get everyone out of the building, including pets
- Call 911 or your local emergency number
- Seek medical attention.
If you are unable to leave your home, move next to an open window or an open door. Don’t return to the area until you’re sure it’s safe—if you’re not sure, wait for the fire department or Fortis BC to tell you everything is OK.
How you can prevent carbon monoxide exposure
Schedule an annual appliance inspection
A licensed gas contractor can tell you if your gas appliances (your stove, furnace, fireplace, etc.) and venting systems are in good working order. Find a licensed gas contractor and book an inspection here.
Install a carbon monoxide alarm
When choosing a CO alarm, look for a certification mark from a certification body accredited by the Standards Council of Canada. Then:
- Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions. We recommend installing your CO alarms in the hallway outside your bedrooms and on each level of your home.
- If your alarm isn’t hardwired, check your batteries twice a year. If it’s more than seven years old (check the end-of-life date), it’s time to get a new one.
Note that CO alarm units with sealed lithium batteries require no battery replacement or maintenance.
Never ignore the sound of a carbon monoxide alarm
When the alarm sounds, always investigate. Although the alarm can be triggered by gases or conditions other than CO, it’s important to determine the cause so that you can prevent a worst-case scenario.
Make sure you know the difference between an alarm sound versus a low battery or end-of-life warning.
Only working CO alarms save lives. If you have a broken or expired CO alarm, replace it and make sure it gets recycled properly. There are over 200 recycling locations across BC where you can drop off your CO alarm for recycling—for free. Learn more.