Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless and odourless gas created when fuels such as oil, kerosene, gasoline, diesel, coal, propane, natural gas, or wood burn without enough oxygen. Exposure to CO can cause sickness and death.

Install a certified CO detector next to bedrooms on all levels to protect you and your family from CO poisoning. Always use and maintain fuel-burning equipment and appliances correctly.

Dangerous levels of CO can build up through a faulty appliance, a clogged chimney, poor venting, or engine exhaust build-up in a garage.

Signs of carbon monoxide:

  • stuffy or stale air;
  • more condensation than usual on your windows;
  • soot build up around a fireplace, chimney, or other fuel-burning equipment;
  • fuel-burning equipment has a back-draft (flame flares up when a window or door opens and adds air);
  • a pilot light keeps going out.

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CO poisoning symptoms

Early CO poisoning symptoms are like the flu. During flu season, many cases of CO poisoning may be left unreported and untreated.

CO poisoning symptoms, based on exposure (amount inhaled and length of time)
Exposure level Symptoms and effects
Early or low Light headache, nausea, shortage of breath during moderate physical activity
High Severe headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, mental confusion, weakness, vision and hearing impairment, collapse or fainting during physical activity, loss of muscle control, drowsiness
Extreme Unconsciousness, brain damage, death

If you have these symptoms and they go away when you leave the building, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately.

If your CO detector alarm goes off

Do not ignore the alarm.

If anyone has symptoms of CO poisoning:

  1. Evacuate people and pets from the area immediately.
  2. Leave the doors open in the home or building as you exit.
  3. From a safe place, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately.

If no one has symptoms of CO poisoning, your CO detector or fuel-burning equipment may not be working properly:

  1. Immediately turn off the fuel-burning equipment or appliance.
  2. Evacuate anyone who may be at risk – children, the elderly, or pregnant women.
  3. Open the doors and windows.
  4. Call us anytime at 204-480-5900 (Winnipeg) or 1-888-624-9376 (toll-free).

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Prevent CO build up

Have a qualified heating dealer:

  • check and clean your heating system regularly;
  • ensure all external vents for fuel-burning appliances are correctly installed and secure;
  • assess the need for a fresh air intake duct for wood-burning fireplaces or stoves.

You should:

  • regularly test your CO alarms;
  • keep your indoor and outdoor vents and chimneys clear of debris, snow, and ice;
  • keep the area around your furnace clutter-free for proper air circulation;
  • regularly check all natural gas appliances have a blue flame (a yellow flame may be a sign of CO);
  • never idle a vehicle or run gas-powered equipment (for example, mower, snow blower, trimmer, generator) in your attached garage, even with the overhead door open;
  • never use portable fuel-burning equipment such as a generator, patio heater, barbecue, or camp stove, inside your home or garage.

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