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What You Need to Know about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Known as the silent killer, carbon monoxide (CO) is a common odourless, colourless gas found inside our homes. Furnaces, stoves, cigarettes and vehicles are among the most common sources of CO, a reason why it’s important to regularly service household appliances and properly ventilate the home.

Interestingly, Ontario law mandates that homes need CO detectors because this gas is impossible to detect otherwise. So make sure that your home has a detector and that its batteries are still energized.

The Dangers of CO

According to Statistics Canada, 380 Canadians died from carbon monoxide poisoning between 2000 and 2009. Fatality is the result of high CO concentrations; low to medium concentrations often produce milder symptoms like:

  • Fatigue,
  • Chest pain,
  • Angina,
  • Blurry vision,
  • Headaches,
  • Dizziness,
  • Nausea,
  • Confusion,
  • And short-term memory loss.

CO produces the aforesaid effects once it enters the blood stream. There, it binds with hemoglobin, a protein responsible for carrying oxygen to cells. Once bound, hemoglobin cannot effectively transfer oxygen.

CO Levels in Your Home

Carbon monoxide is the by-product of incomplete fuel burning, which happens in malfunctioning appliances. Because homes today are so airtight—described as “energy efficient”—any CO in the home gets trapped. Over time, the concentration can grow from harmless to lethal. For this reason, installing an air exchanger is a necessary preventive measure, as such a system expels stale, polluted indoor air. Exchangers also reduce heating and cooling costs, helping offset the upfront investment.

To learn more about the dangerous gases found inside your home, read our previous article, “Common Pollutants You Might Find Inside Your Home.”

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