When we think of poisons in the household, we tend to think of liquids. However, carbon monoxide, an invisible gas, is one of the leading causes of accidental poisoning deaths in Canada. Because carbon monoxide is invisible and can’t be detected by smell, it’s sometimes referred to as the “silent killer”.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure can include headaches or nausea and can be misdiagnosed as the flu or a similar bug. Burning eyes, and drowsiness, and confusion are also common symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure. In cases of repeated or prolonged exposure, health effects can be more serious or can even prove deadly.

Sources of carbon monoxide
The most common source for carbon monoxide in the home is fuel-burning appliances, such as heaters or furnaces. A malfunctioning fuel-burning appliance or a heater in an area with poor venting or a blocked exhaust can create dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in your home. It’s essential to have fuel-burning appliances or heaters inspected regularly to ensure safe operation but also to have carbon monoxide detectors installed in several areas of your home.

Install carbon monoxide detectors
In some areas of Canada, carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory in homes but carbon monoxide detectors are an item that should be in every home, for safety’s sake. Industry experts recommend installing carbon monoxide detectors on each level of your home, with a detector placed near any fuel-burning appliances and detectors near bedrooms. Be sure not to place carbon monoxide detectors near windows or doors because drafts can make the detectors less effective.

Combination smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are available as well, which can make checking your detector’s operation and changing batteries less of a chore. Experts recommend testing your batteries monthly.

Replace carbon monoxide detectors as needed
Carbon monoxide detectors usually wear out after about five to seven years. Most carbon monoxide detectors have an expiration date printed on the back. If your detector does not have an expiration date listed, replace it as soon as possible.