Vancouver: Spring is often a busy time for preventative maintenance around the home now that the weather is warming up. But when it comes to gas and electrical appliance maintenance, Technical Safety BC is reminding homeowners to use licensed contractors and be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide (CO).
Last spring, carbon monoxide exposure took the lives of a family in Ashcroft, BC. The cause was an incorrectly-installed tankless, on-demand water heater in the living area of the home that was venting carbon monoxide indoors. The installation of the water heater was unpermitted, unlicensed and unsafe.
“Safety is our objective and one of our main activities to prevent unsafe conditions is to actively promote and create more awareness of carbon monoxide safety,” says Janice Lee, Director of Safety Oversight at Technical Safety BC. “This includes maintaining household equipment that can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if not properly maintained or installed.”
Each year in BC numerous carbon monoxide incidents are reported to the authorities. Technical Safety BC investigates approximately 10 CO incidents that take place in areas within their jurisdiction each year. According to their findings, most incidents occur in residences and involve residential furnaces, boilers or water heaters.
Each year Technical Safety BC seeks to inform the public about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Below are some prevention and safety tips for consumers to avoid exposure to carbon monoxide.
Technical Safety BC Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips:
Carbon monoxide can be neither seen nor smelled, which is why it is known as the “silent killer” and can overcome its victims undetected. Breathing low levels of carbon monoxide over a long period of time can also cause severe heart problems and brain damage.
How to prevent CO poisoning:
- Install Canadian-approved CO alarms on every floor of your home, especially near sleeping areas.
- Schedule regular inspections of gas appliances (e.g., furnaces, fireplaces, gas stoves, hot water heaters, boilers, etc.) by a licensed gas contractor (find a listing on Technical Safety BC’s website)
- Keep the area around your furnace clear for proper air circulation.
- Keep all air ducts, vents, and screens free of obstructions.
- Never operate portable fuel-burning devices such as camp stoves, lanterns, generators, lawn equipment, barbecues indoors or in closed spaces.
- Don’t leave a vehicle engine running inside an enclosed garage or space
- Do not close a fireplace or stove damper before the fire is completely out.
- Do not use gas-powered generators, lawn equipment or engines in enclosed areas.
Know the warning signs of CO gas at home:
- CO alarm sounds
- Loose, disconnected, water-streaked or rusty chimney vents
- Soot build-up or discolouration on fireplaces
- Discolouration of fuel-burning appliances or heating system warm air vents
- Window condensation
- Sick or dying pets or plants
If you suspect CO exposure:
- Get outside immediately.
- Once safely outdoors, call 9-1-1 for help.
- Seek immediate medical attention. CO poisoning can be fatal if left untreated. A doctor can order a blood test to measure the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood. If it is high, you may require oxygen therapy to reduce CO levels — either through a mask or via a hyperbaric chamber.
Know the symptoms of CO gas 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.