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Ways to protect yourself against carbon monoxide hazards

Ways to protect yourself against carbon monoxide hazards

Carbon monoxide (CO) leaks can be a scary reality when things like defective furnaces, air conditioners, fireplaces, and oil heaters allow this clear, odourless and poisonous gas into our homes. Find out what to watch for and how to protect yourself and your family.

What can you look for?

CO is particularly dangerous because there tend to be no noticeable symptoms while an individual’s CO levels in their bloodstream are at less than 10%. Plus, once they exceed 10%, CO poisoning symptoms tend to mimic a cold or the flu, and may include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Mild confusion
  • Irregular breathing and heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Coughing

Be sure to take note if everyone in your home begins experiencing at least some of these symptoms at the same time, and pay particular attention if pets exhibit them too, since animals cannot get the flu.

What should you do?

Poisoning can be fatal if levels in the blood exceed 20% so it’s important that you act fast if you suspect a leak. Act quickly to:

  • Evacuate your home and get everyone outdoors immediately.
  • Call 9-1-1 from another location.
  • Report the incident to the fire department, even if everyone is feeling better

How can you prevent CO poisoning?

Taking a few moments to manage your home’s risks can pay dividends when it comes to protect your loved ones. Be sure to:

  • Have your furnace and gas appliances inspected and maintained by a qualified contractor once a year, preferably before the colder winter months.
  • Keep in mind that space heaters, ovens and any gasoline-powered engines can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide. If you suspect the appliance or tool you’re using might be causing a buildup, play it safe and open a window, or, if you’re working in the garage, open the door. Ventilation will help disperse a buildup of gas.
  • Install a CO detector on each level of your home, and in or near each bedroom. Try to keep the detectors at least 6m from any fuel-burning appliances and at least 3m from high-humidity locations like bathrooms and kitchens since moisture can trigger faulty readings. Test the batteries of your detector regularly, and if an alarm sounds, call a professional to check your gas-burning appliances.

These tips are provided for information and prevention purposes only. They are general in nature, and Desjardins Insurance cannot be held liable for them. We recommend using caution and consulting an expert for comprehensive, tailored advice.

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