In: Home Safety

Carbon monoxide has been described as an “invisible killer,” and for good reason. Because human senses (smell, sight, feel, taste) cannot detect carbon monoxide, it has great potential to pose serious health hazards. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas caused by an incomplete combustion of fuel (natural gas, propane, heating oil, kerosene, coal, charcoal, gasoline, wood, etc.). All fuel burning devices have potential to produce carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide has the potential to poison the body quickly in high concentration, or poison the body slowly over long periods of time. Initial exposure to carbon monoxide may cause flu-like symptoms (headache, nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue) without an elevated body temperature. Heavy exposure to carbon monoxide results in more severe symptoms that may include excessive vomiting, fainting, muscular coordination difficulty and confusion. The most critical cases of carbon monoxide poisoning can cause severe brain damage and may result in death.

As of October 15, 2014, the Ontario Fire Code (OFC) and Ontario Building Code (OBC) demands that all existing residential occupancies that contain at a fuel-burning appliance, fireplace or attached garage, require the installation of a carbon monoxide alarm.

Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are not the same thing! Some home detectors are dual and have smoke and carbon monoxide sensors within them and others are sold as two separate units. Carbon monoxide should be installed adjacent to sleeping areas. While smoke detectors must be placed upon the ceiling, carbon monoxide detectors may be installed at any height, because the carbon monoxide mixes with air. However, if a dual detector is being used it MUST be installed on or near the ceiling.

If you are unsure of what detectors your home has, now is the time to check! Remember, there are no ways to sense carbon monoxide without a detector!