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Province encouraging awareness of carbon monoxide as heaters fire up

As the weather gets colder and many furnaces begin heating homes in the province, the government is encouraging awareness of the “invisible killer.”

The “invisible killer” is carbon monoxide, a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas produced when fuels like natural gas and propane are not completely burned.

Since 2012, the province says carbon monoxide has killed 118 people including eight over the past year. Parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness Jennifer Rice says the deaths highlight the importance of learning the risks the gas poses.

“The loss of life due to carbon monoxide poisoning is tragic, and it’s critical that everyone learns about its dangers and what they can do to stop it from happening,” said Rice.

Jim Lariviere, an assistant fire chief on Vancouver Island, says preventing these issues requires inspections to ensure appliances are working correctly.

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“[Carbon-monoxide is] also caused by burning of wood in fireplaces or vehicles running in an enclosed garage attached to the house,” said Lariviere. “Things that you should be doing is looking after, and making sure all your fuel-burning appliances, whatever they are along with chimneys and outside vents are inspected annually.”

The province says carbon monoxide poisoning can cause flu-like symptoms, like headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion and drowsiness and cause death at high levels.

Technical Safety BC lead executive officer Phil Gothe says knowing the early signs and having safety equipment should be a necessity.

Lariviere says that smoke detectors that also detect carbon monoxide can now be purchased. However, if it is only a smoke detector, it will not work against carbon monoxide.

The province says if you suspect someone is experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning or an alarm goes off, get everyone outside and call 911.

Lariviere says while it is carbon monoxide awareness week, the dangers of carbon monoxide should always be monitored.

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