By Darren Lum
A recent assistance call for three area residents who were suffering from carbon monoxide inhalation living north of Haliburton is a reminder of the importance of having a working carbon monoxide detector in the home said the Dysart et al Fire Department chief.
Fire chief Mike Iles said it’s not just the law, but could save your life to have one.
“Please don’t become a statistic because you failed to install or inspect your smoke and [carbon monoxide] alarms,” he said in a prepared statement.
During the last week of January, members of the fire department were called to help three individuals suffering with the side effects of carbon monoxide inhalation. When the members of the fire department arrived the three individuals had left the residence, but exhibited symptoms of disorientation. All three were transported to Haliburton hospital and transferred to a hospital in Toronto for additional treatment. They were released the next day.
Iles said it’s important to remember where to place detectors/alarms.
“As a minimum the fire code states that there must be a smoke alarm placed outside of every sleeping area and on every floor. [Carbon monoxide] alarms must be placed outside of every sleeping area, if there is fuel burning appliances (wood stoves, oil furnaces, propane furnace/fridge/stove/hot water heaters, etc) or an attached garage,” he said in a prepared statement.
Only use heating appliances that are approved for indoor use. Unless a portable heater is electric, it is typically not for indoor use and this includes propane cook stoves and ovens, which are designed for limited time of use he said.
“We can only hope that you’ll impress upon a few more people and if one person listens, that might make a difference,” he said in an interview with the Echo. “It’s a very important message.”
Many detectors can last 10 years, but needs maintenance and replacement after that time, he adds. Also, ensure the detector is clean, free from dust with a once-a-year vacuum. Detectors range in price from about $25 for a battery powered one to more sophisticated units with the ability to have it powered by the electrical system of the house and have dual capabilities (smoke and carbon monoxide detection), which can cost upwards of $200.
From the Health Canada website, carbon monoxide is a gas, which causes illness and death, but has no smell, taste, and colour. It is produced from burning coal, gasoline, natural gas, oil, propane and wood or wood pellets. It continues noting how carbon monoxide is is also a product of second-hand smoke.
The greatest risk of carbon monoxide inhalation is in the winter months because most homes in Canada are heated by furnaces, wood stoves or wood pellets, water heaters or boilers and other appliances that run on burning fuels.
The symptoms associated to low levels of carbon monoxide inhalation include flu-like symptoms such as tiredness, headaches, shortness of breath, impaired motor functions (muscle weakness, partial or total loss of function of a body part). At increased exposure and duration, the symptoms include dizziness, chest pain, poor vision, difficulty thinking while high of carbon dioxide inhalation the symptoms are convulsions, loss of consciousness, coma and death.
The characteristics of carbon monoxide make it deadly.
“So, in this case, you can’t smell it. You can’t see it. And by the time you realize you’re suffering, the effects of [carbon monoxide] poisoning, it could be too late … if you have anything but electric appliances, pretty much, you need to have a [carbon monoxide] alarm,” Iles said.