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Carbon monoxide safety tips

Three people were killed and two others were rushed to hospital in a suspected case of carbon monoxide poisoning in Brampton on Monday.

Toronto Fire Capt. Linda St. Germain said carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas – and in high enough concentrations, can actually cause death.

St. Germain said CO detectors should be located close to the bedroom, so you can hear it if it goes off in the night.

Here are some other safety tips, courtesy of the City of Toronto:

  • Install at least one carbon monoxide detector on every level of your home, especially outside sleeping areas. There are several types of detectors, including battery-operated and plug-in models. Install the carbon monoxide detector according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Have a qualified service technician inspect and clean your fuel-burning appliances, furnace, vent pipe and chimney flues once a year. Birds’ nests, twigs and old mortar in chimneys can block proper ventilation and lead to build-up of carbon monoxide gas in the home.
  • Test your carbon monoxide detector regularly to make sure it is operating properly. The owner’s manual should tell you how to test your alarm. Remember to check the manual for information on when to buy a new carbon monoxide detector.
  • If the detector sounds, you and all members of your household should leave your home immediately. From outside the home, call 9-1-1. Don’t go back inside until the problem has been found and corrected. The Fire Services will inspect your home to find the source of the carbon monoxide.
  • In case of fire or an emergency, call 9-1-1.

Why is carbon monoxide so deadly?

Carbon monoxide poisoning is the number one cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America. More than 70 per cent of carbon monoxide deaths or injuries in Ontario occur in the home.

When you inhale carbon monoxide, it can cause brain damage, suffocation or death. Because you cannot see, smell or taste this deadly gas, poisoning can happen to anyone, any time, anywhere. Everyone is at risk but pregnant women, young children, senior citizens and people with heart and lung problems are at greater risk. If your home is well sealed or not well ventilated, the levels of carbon monoxide in the air may easily rise to deadly levels.

Warning signs

Carbon monoxide poisoning and the flu seem a lot alike at first. Early warning signs of low-level poisoning include tiredness, headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting and shortness of breath. Your skin may also turn pink or red in response to rising blood pressure. If you experience any of these symptoms, you may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and should call 9-1-1 as well as talk to your doctor.