Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Description

Every year, carbon monoxide (CO) is the cause of many poisonings in Quebec. It is a clear and odourless toxic gas. It does not irritate the eyes or respiratory tract. Inhaling carbon monoxide can be very dangerous for health and may even cause death.

Carbon monoxide is released when appliances and vehicles burn combustibles such as propane, wood and fuel oil.

Only a carbon monoxide alarm can detect the gas and warn you. When the alarm goes off, knowing what to do is important. To find out more on this, go to the What To Do When You Have Symptoms or a Carbon Monoxide Alarm Goes Off section.

If you wish to get an alarm, purchasing advice can be found in the Choosing Your CO Detectors Ce lien ouvre une nouvelle fenêtre.section of the ministère de la Sécurité publique website.

Identifying Sources of Carbon Monoxide

Several types of appliances and vehicles can release carbon monoxide and cause poisoning:

  • Non-electrical heating appliances such as oil-burning furnaces, wood-burning fireplaces, wood-burning stoves or propane heaters
  • Combustion engine vehicles such as cars, snowmobiles, boats or all-terrain vehicles
  • Appliances that run on natural gas or propane such as gas stoves, propane refrigerators or propane water heaters
  • Gasoline tools and appliances such as lawnmowers, saws or generators
  • Outdoor appliances such as barbecues, oil lamps or portable stoves

The use of these appliances and vehicles generally does not pose a threat to your health, but they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Here are some situations in which poisoning may occur:

  • Faulty or poorly maintained appliances or vehicles. Examples:
    • You have not cleaned your chimney
    • Your chimney is blocked
    • You have not conducted annual maintenance of your furnace 
  • Appliances or vehicles are used in a closed or poorly ventilated area. Examples:
    • You run your car engine inside a garage, even if the garage door is open. The danger exists regardless the type of garage (attached,  detached or portable)
    • You activate the remote starter of a car that is in a garage
    • You use gas tools in a garage or shed
  • Appliances or vehicles are used inappropriately. Examples:
    • You use an extra heating system, such as a propane heater, inside your house or garage
    • You install a gas generator inside your house or in an attached  or detached garage
    • You use a propane barbecue or a grill indoor
    • You start your car while the exhaust pipe is blocked by snow following a storm

Precautions

The best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is by abiding to safety.  

  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm Ce lien ouvre une nouvelle fenêtre. in areas where there are sources of the gas
  • Do not use motor apparatus that run on fuel, such as gasoline or propane, inside.
  • Respect maintenance and safety guidelines. For instance, if you have a fireplace or a wood-burning stove, get your chimney cleaned at least once a year in the spring or fall. Also make sure that it is not blocked and that there is no leakage
  • Hire qualified professionals. For instance, ask a qualified mechanic to verify parts of the exhaust system of your vehicle such as the manifold, catalytic converter, muffler and exhaust pipe

Proper safety measures must be taken to reduce the risk of accidents during handling, installation and use of propane appliances. To know more about this, see the Using propane Ce lien ouvre une nouvelle fenêtre. page on the Régie du bâtiment du Québec website.

In order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, special measures should be taken during some situations. Certain actions must also be taken when symptoms appear, or in the event of an emergency.

In the event of power failure

Never use as a heating device a gas appliance such as a stove, portable heater, camping heater or a barbecue.

In case of prolonged power failure during cold weather, check if your municipality has emergency shelters where you can go for safety.

If you are using a generator, install it:

  • Outside of your house or attached or detached garage
  • As far away as possible from doors and windows

Specific Measures for Vacationers

Fuel-burning appliances that produce carbon monoxide can cause poisoning no matter where they are used. Even on vacation, whether it's in a chalet, a fishing or hunting camp, a caravan or camping site, you need to take precautions.

Make sure you have a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm Ce lien ouvre une nouvelle fenêtre. and check regularly that it works properly. Also, make sure to use your fuel-burning appliances properly and keep them in good condition.  

What to do in case of an emergency

If you have symptoms of poisoning, whether or not the carbon monoxide alarm goes off:

  • Head outside
  • Go somewhere you can call the Centre anti-poison du Québec (poison control centre) at 1-800-463-5060
  • If you have access to a fire department:
    • Call 9-1-1
    • Wait for the authorisation of a firefighter to go back inside, even for a few minutes
    • Do not use your fuel-burning appliances again before having them checked by a qualified person
  • If you do not have access to a fire department:
    • Do not go back inside before having your fuel-burning appliances checked by a qualified person
  • If applicable, notify a member of the facility staff

If you do not have symptoms of poisoning but the alarm goes off:

  • If you have access to a fire department:
    • Head outside
    • Call 9-1-1
    • Wait for the authorisation of a firefighter to go back inside, even for a few minutes
    • Do not use your fuel-burning appliances again before having them checked by a qualified person
  • If you do not have access to a fire department:
    • Open doors and windows
    • Head outside
    • If applicable, cut power to fuel-burning appliances, such as propane or gas tanks or gas-powered equipment
    • Do not go back inside without having your fuel-burning appliances checked by a qualified person
  • If applicable, notify a member of the facility staff

Precautions to take during blasting operations

Excavation with explosives usually produces carbon monoxide. If it does not dissipate in the air, carbon monoxide can move through soil into buildings or enclosed areas. Buildings located within 100 metres of a blast site are most likely to be contaminated with carbon monoxide.

If excavation work is being conducted with explosives near you, there may be danger of poisoning by carbon monoxide. Indeed, the gas could leak into your home from the ground. The infiltration can happen day or night, and even several days after operations.

When blasting operations are planned, the people responsible must warn occupants of residences within a 100-meter radius of the site. They must provide them with information on the following:

  • Start and end dates of operations
  • The name and contact information of the person responsible for the operations
  • The risks of carbon monoxide infiltrating into buildings
  • The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

The people responsible must also:

  • Inform occupants that they’ll receive a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm, and that they must use it to detect presence of the gas
  • Inform occupants on the importance of ventilating their residence properly on the day of blasting operations, by opening two windows to create an air current. People with an air exchange system must:
    • Set it to ‘air exchange’ mode
    • Leave it on continuously at the highest setting for at least 48 hours once blasting operations have begun
  • Inform occupants that they must exit the premises immediately and call 9-1-1- in the following instances:

If you have received a carbon monoxide alarm because blasting operations are due to be conducted near you, you must do the following:

  • Test the device before operations begin to make sure you can hear the alarm warning from all rooms in your house
  • Use the alarm for at least 14 days after blasting operations 

Precautions to Take in an Arena

Certain toxic gases are sometimes present inside arenas when poorly evacuated. These gases come primarily from the exhaust pipes of combustion apparatus such as oil-fired or propane heating system, resurfacers and propane or gasoline-powered trimmers or other motorized vehicles. These apparatuses can release carbon monoxide or nitrogen dioxide and cause poisoning, whether you are on the ice or in the bleachers of an arena.

You might have carbon monoxide poisoning if you experience the following symptoms within minutes from exposure:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness

You might have nitrogen dioxide poisoning if you experience the following symptoms immediately after exposure and up to two days after being in an arena:

  • Irritation of eyes and throat
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Spitting up blood

What to Do in Case of Symptoms

If you have symptoms of poisoning:

  • Exit the arena, making sure you are accompanied
  • Call 9-1-1
  • Do not go back inside, even for a few minutes

If symptoms appear within two days of having been in an arena:

  • Call the Centre antipoison du Québec (poison control centre) at 1-800-463-5060
  • See a doctor

Last update: November 3, 2016 9:04 AM

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