Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week: What you need to know

Carbon Monoxide Week: November 2-8

You can’t see. You can’t smell it. You can’t taste it.

But you can die from it.

Carbon Monoxide.

The Ontario Fire Code requires all homes in Ontario with fuel-burning appliances, a fireplace or an attached garage to have working CO alarms outside of each sleeping area. Fuel-burning appliances can include furnaces, hot water heaters, gas or wood fireplaces, portable fuel-burning heaters and generators, barbeques or stoves.

Condos and apartment buildings with a service room, are required to have CO alarms installed in the service room and adjacent to each sleeping area of all homes above, below and beside the service room. In condo or apartment buildings that have a garage, CO alarms must be installed adjacent to each sleeping area of all homes above, below and beside the garage.

Where does it go?

One of the biggest mistakes people make, say fire safety officials, is they put it (CO Alarm) by their furnace because they think that’s where their carbon monoxide problem is going to come from. It needs to it by your sleeping areas. Carbon monoxide mixes freely with the air, so it’s going to be coming throughout the entire house, even if your furnace is the culprit. You need an alarm right by your sleeping area so it’s loud and piercing and gets you into action.

That action is to gather the family and leave the house immediately to get to fresh air, then call 911 to have firefighters pinpoint the source of the carbon monoxide.

A kitty litter box could set off your alarm

And while fuel-burning appliances and automobile exhaust are common causes of carbon monoxide, it could also be something less sinister, like a cleaning product you’re using or if your CO alarm is too close to your kitty litter box or if it’s on the same switch as a light dimmer.

Push the button

The best type of alarm to buy is one with a digital readout. They are set to activate at 70 parts per million (PPM). If you see a reading of 20 or 25 PPM, it’s not enough to sound the alarm, but it is enough to have someone come in and check your fuel-fired appliances (appliance servicing is recommended once-a-year to ensure they are working efficiently).

When you test your alarm – and you should do this regularly you want to make sure that it sounds. The readout will also show if any carbon monoxide accumulation has occurred over the previous two weeks. Anything over zero is a signal to have your service company to check to have a look at your appliances.

The danger

Carbon monoxide suffocates you from the inside. It impairs your thinking; you will not be able to think properly. If everyone else in the house gets sick at the same time, that’s a warning signal as well. At that point, it’s often too late.

There is an average of 11 carbon monoxide deaths in Ontario every year.