Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week: What to Know About CO

Everyone is familiar with carbon dioxide, as you learn about its role in everyday life, like breathing, photosynthesis, industrial processes, the works. However, most people are much less educated on carbon monoxide, a silent killer, and we need to be prepared to deal with it should the time come. Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week occurs at the start of November, so we’re here to help educate you on what it is, how to detect it and what to do if you find a leak.

First off, carbon monoxide is a deadly gas because it is not only invisible, but also odourless and colourless. This toxic gas is completely undetectable by the human body, so we install alarms in our homes to alert us if there is a leak. Commonly, this gas can be found in your garage, workspace and home due to fireplaces, clogged chimneys, furnaces, generators, space heaters, vehicle exhaust and much more. Therefore, it’s important to have regular check-ups on your heating system to ensure things are running properly.

There are certain symptoms that the human body will start to feel if there is a carbon monoxide leak in your home. These effects do vary person to person based on your age, health and length of exposure, but some signs are quite common. Initial exposure to this deadly gas can cause headaches, confusion, dizziness, weakness, nausea and other flu-like symptoms. In more severe cases, carbon monoxide poisoning can even lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, impaired vision, convulsions, coma and potentially death. If you feel any combination of the above-mentioned symptoms, leave your house immediately and call 9-1-1 or head straight to the emergency room.

In order to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, we need to make sure our homes are kept in good shape to avoid build up and poor ventilation. Here are a few ways that you can maintain your home to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Do not use a stove or oven to heat your home. This is dangerous and can release harmful chemicals into the air without proper ventilation.
  • Always back your car out of the garage before you leave it running, whether you’re warming up the engine or waiting for someone. Even with the garage door open, this can allow harmful gases to build up in the space.
  • Use portal fuel-burning devices outdoors or in properly ventilated areas, such as barbecues, generators, heaters, etc. Follow the instructions that come along with it to keep your family safe.

After reducing risk, the best way to protect yourself in the event of a carbon monoxide leak is to have a detector in your home. These alarms are affordable and can be purchased at any hardware store. Whether you have an alarm or you are purchasing a new one, make sure to test it and replace the batteries as needed. Make note of the expiration date on your current alarm and set a reminder when it needs to be replaced.

For more information on carbon monoxide, please visit the Government of Alberta website here.