Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas. It can be produced by appliances that burn fossil fuels such as gas, coal, wood or oil if they are not working properly, if the flue is blocked in any way, or if the room is not properly ventilated.

Why is it so dangerous?

Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless and tasteless, which makes it difficult to detect. However, its effects are deadly. People are killed every year by carbon monoxide poisoning due to faulty appliances.

What are the main causes of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Most cases of carbon monoxide poisoning are due to inadequate ventilation or poor maintenance of appliances and blocked or leaky flues and chimneys. Chimneys can become blocked for various reasons, including birds nesting on the chimney, or degradation of the flue. A blocked flue can lead to carbon monoxide leaking into your home.

Who is at risk?

Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen with any fossil fuel system if the system is faulty or if the room is not properly ventilated. Carbon monoxide poisoning is most times associated with rental accommodation, but more people are killed in owner properties than in rented properties.

Carbon monoxide may be present if there are any of the following danger signs:

  • Gas flames that normally burn blue are now yellow or orange instead.
  • Sooty stains appear on the appliances even though fuel is being burnt.
  • Coal or wood fires burn slowly or go out.
  • The appliance is difficult to light.
  • The room is improperly ventilated.
  • The chimney or flue is blocked – watch out for smoke in the room.
  • You develop the following unexplained symptoms:
    • tiredness
    • drowsiness
    • headaches
    • dizziness
    • chest pains
    • nausea

If you suddenly develop any of the listed symptoms you could be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Turn off all appliances and call 911 immediately.

Important Safety Messages and Facts

Carbon monoxide can result from burning all fossil fuels – not just gas fires and boilers.

It is important to ensure that rooms are ventilated – never block vents. If double glazing or draft-proofing is fitted, make sure there is still enough air circulating for all heaters in the room.

Portable heaters do not need a flue, but they still need good ventilation.

Gas flames burning orange or yellow instead of blue may indicate the presence of carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide detectors should comply with ULC standards. But remember they are only warning devices. Never rely on them entirely and do not use them as a substitute for regular servicing.

Carbon Monoxide Regulations for Ontario

  • It is law in Ontario to install CSA-approved CO alarms outside sleeping areas.
  • CO alarms are required by law to be replaced within the time frame indicated in the manufacturer’s instructions and/or on the label on the unit. some new CO alarms offer sealed lithium batteries that last 10 years from activation.
  • For optimal protection, install additional CO alarms on every floor of the home,
  • Have a licensed technician inspect your fuel burning appliances annually, (eg. furnace, range, fireplace, water heater) to ensure they are in proper working order and vented correctly.
  • For families with older parents or relatives, it is wise to help them inspect their CO alarms.
  • CO alarms do not last forever. They need to be replaced every 7-10 years, depending on the brand.
  • Carbon Monoxide affects the ability to think clearly, so never delay if your alarm goes off and you sense a problem. Contact a certified technician right away.

The Hawkins-Gignac Act

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is known as the “Silent Killer” because you can’t see it, smell it or taste it. The only way to detect the presence of the deadly gas is to install a carbon monoxide alarm. On October 15, 2014, the Ontario government formally enacted a new law – The Hawkins-Gignac Act – making carbon monoxide alarms mandatory in all Ontario homes at risk of CO. This revision to the Ontario Fire Code, supersedes any existing municipal by-laws.

Now no matter the age of your home, if you have any oil, propane or gas burning appliances, furnace or water heater, a wood or gas fireplace, or an attached garage or carport, you must have working carbon monoxide alarms installed near sleeping areas. Ontario’s new CO alarm law brings a consistent level of protection to all homes.

Condos and apartments have to place detectors in every unit that has a fuel-burning appliance. Otherwise, the detectors must be placed by the service room.