Having gas-fuelled appliances properly maintained and a working carbon monoxide detector in the home are two ways to stay safe from carbon monoxide, according to provincial safety regulator Technical Safety B.C. (PAUL JOSEPH PHOTO/Technical Safety B.C.)

With carbon monoxide, it doesn’t take a lot to be deadly

Nov. 1-7 is Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week in B.C.

Carbon monoxide precautions are a good idea, because it doesn’t take much CO to make a home unsafe.

This week, Nov. 1-7, is Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week in B.C. and Technical Safety B.C., the provincial regulator of gas safety in British Columbia, is observing the occasion by trying to pass along information about the risks of carbon monoxide exposure.

The organization has been alerted to instances of people running generators inside their home during power outages, and using propane-fuelled appliances inside their homes, according to an e-mail to Black Press. Technical Safety B.C. is also concerned that people with carbon monoxide detectors sometimes ignore or even disconnect the device rather than heed its warnings.

“Carbon monoxide … is colourless, it’s odourless and it does not take a lot to be fatal,” said Craig Helm, gas safety officer with Technical Safety B.C. “One per cent of carbon monoxide in the air is actually fatal.”

Helm has investigated several incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning over the years, including close calls in Port Alberni and other places and a fatality in North Vancouver.

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“A [person] who did pass away, basically walked into the house and just fell immediately. There were no flu symptoms, there were no headaches, no nothing,” Helm said. “He just walked into a house full of carbon monoxide.”

Technical Safety B.C. wants to get across the message that homeowners with gas furnaces, fireplaces and ranges should ensure that the appliances are serviced annually by licensed contractors.

“When you’re heating a cold surface with hot temperatures, hot gases, you’re going to create carbon monoxide and it’s for a short time, but you’re still going to create it,” Helm said. “The worst thing is when people bring in their portable appliances and bring them inside – barbecues, heaters. The power goes out so they bring in a heater or something like that to heat up their house. They’re not designed to be burned indoors.”

Symptoms of CO poisoning, according to Technical Safety B.C.’s website, can include headaches and confusion, nausea and dizziness, and later, breathlessness and loss of consciousness. However, as Helm said, CO can be harmful in a short amount of time.

“So many places it can come from, that’s why it’s so important to have a carbon monoxide detector,” he said. “It can save your life.”

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