Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odourless and colourless toxic gas produced by common sources found in your home, garage and workspace. Beat this silent killer by arming yourself with the facts.
Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week
Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week is held each year during the first week of November. Show your support and join in this national event by promoting awareness and encouraging participation in your community.
How it’s produced
Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete burning of common fuels. This happens when there is not an adequate supply of oxygen. Common fuels include:
- natural gas
- heating oil
- any other combustible material such as wood, cloth or paper
These are potential sources found in your home, camper, garage and workspace:
- clogged chimney flues
- water heaters
- gas space heaters
- wood and gas stoves
- tobacco and cannabis smoke
- vehicle exhaust, especially from attached garages or vehicles parked close to ventilation intakes
Signs and symptoms
Health effects vary depending on a person’s age and pre-existing medical conditions, the amount of carbon monoxide in the air and the length of exposure.
Exposure can cause headaches, confusion, dizziness, weakness, nausea and other flu-like symptoms.
In severe cases, exposure can lead to abdominal pain, diarrhea, impaired vision, convulsions, coma and potentially death.
If you have symptoms that you think could be caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, leave the area immediately, and call 911 or go to the emergency room.
Reducing the risk
Reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by ensuring your appliances are regularly maintained and properly ventilated.
- Fuel-burning appliances, such as furnaces, stoves and fireplaces, as well as chimneys and vents should be cleaned and inspected every year before cold weather sets in.
- Vents for fuel-burning appliances should always be clear of debris.
- Gas and charcoal barbeques should be used outside, away from all building openings.
- Portable fuel-burning generators should be used outdoors in well-ventilated areas away from building openings.
- Portable fuel-burning heaters should be vented properly, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Other ways to reduce the risk include
- Never using the stove or oven to heat your home.
- Open the flue for adequate ventilation before using a fireplace.
- Never run a vehicle, fuel engine or motor inside a garage, even if the garage doors are open.
- Always remove a vehicle from the garage immediately after starting it.
Use a carbon monoxide prevention checklist in your home to help keep you and your family safe.
Carbon monoxide alarms
Buying an alarm
Alarms are inexpensive and can be purchased from most hardware, department and electronics stores.
Ensure a recognized certification body, such as Underwriters Laboratories of Canada, Underwriters Laboratories or the Canadian Standards Association, has approved and labeled your alarm.
All alarms have an expiration date and need to be replaced once they have expired.
What to do if the alarm sounds
Follow the steps below if you or anyone in your home is suffering from symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Get everyone out of the home immediately.
- Call 911 or your local emergency services number from outside the building.
- Do not return home until an official advises it is safe to do so.
If your alarm sounds and no one is suffering from symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, check to see if the battery needs replacing or the alarm has reached its end-of-life before calling 911.
Testing and replacing the alarm
- Alarms should be tested monthly by pressing the test button.
- Replace batteries every year.
- Replace alarms according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Know the sound of the alarm
Carbon monoxide alarms sound different from smoke alarms. Test both alarms monthly and make sure everyone in your home knows the difference between the two.
It is also important to know the difference between a low-battery warning, end-of-life warning and an emergency alarm. Consult the alarm manufacturer’s instructions for detailed information.
Download our poster and graphics to share online and in your community to help reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Carbon monoxide safety – Marketing images (ZIP, 18 MB)