The BC Safety Authority (BCSA) is advising British Columbians to keep their families safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) by having gas- and fuel-burning appliances serviced before colder temperatures arrive.
In the first nine months of 2015, there have been four CO incidents, causing seven injuries, as reported to BCSA.
In 2014, there were 12 CO incidents reported to BCSA. These 12 incidents caused 30 injuries. One incident was reported to have affected 15 people.
According to a study published in BCSA’s recent State of Safety Report, over a period of seven years (2007-2013), BCSA investigated 62 reported CO incidents. These incidents resulted in nine fatalities and 110 non–fatal injuries. Most of these incidents occurred during the colder months of October to April. Many incidents happened in residences and involved residential furnaces or water heaters.
With BC officially in the fall season, furnaces, fireplaces and other gas appliances will soon be fired up to keep homes and workplaces warm. BCSA strongly recommends that all gas appliances – including boilers, furnaces, hot water tanks, stoves, dryers and fireplaces – be inspected and serviced at minimum annually by a licensed gas contractor to ensure their safety. BCSA also recommends all households be equipped with CO detectors.
“Have your gas appliances serviced at least once a year by a licensed gas contractor as part of your home’s regular maintenance routine,” Brad Wyatt, BCSA’s acting gas safety manager said in a statement released on Thursday, October 29. “All households should also have Canadian certified CO detectors located as near as possible to sleeping areas of the home; these devices save lives.”
CO detectors are mandatory in new home construction in BC, but may not be present in older homes. Carbon monoxide alarms can be hardwired, battery-operated or plugged into the wall. See the manufacturer’s instructions for detailed operation, installation and life-span information.
“Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas and the only way to detect its presence is by using a CO detector,” Wyatt said in the statement. “They are relatively easy to install and equally as important as smoke detectors to your family’s safety.”
Carbon monoxide is produced by burning carbon fuels such as propane, natural gas, oil, wood, charcoal, alcohol, kerosene or gasoline. Exposure to CO interferes with the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, which can result in serious illness or death. At particular risk are children who are more rapidly affected by CO, at lower exposure levels than adults, and seniors living at home whose exposure symptoms may be mistakenly attributed to other health issues.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include: light headedness, headaches, nausea, fatigue, chest pains, vomiting, convulsions, confusion, and dizziness. Other signs to watch for include: condensation on windows, plants dying, and having an entire family sick at the same time.
A properly installed CO alarm can alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide. If the alarm sounds or you suspect possible carbon monoxide exposure, get out of the home immediately and call the fire department or 911 from another location. They will come and check your home for the presence of carbon monoxide.
For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning and gas appliance safety, as well as information about how to choose the appropriate CO detector or locate a licensed gas contractor in your area, visit: http://www.safetyauthority.ca/carbon-monoxide.
Additional web links:
- BCSA State of Safety Report 2014: Understanding Gas Safety Risks
- BCSA Information Bulletin: Quick Reference – Annual Servicing For Gas Appliances
- BCSA Information Bulletin: Full Version – Annual Servicing For Gas Appliances
The BC Safety Authority is an independent, self-funded organization mandated to oversee the safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment. In addition to issuing permits, licences and certificates, it works with industry to reduce safety risks through assessment, education and outreach, enforcement, and research.