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More Needs To Be Done To Protect Canadians From Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (or CO, for short ) is known as “the silent killer” because it is a gas that is undetected by smell or sight. Sadly, it takes the lives of Canadians at a rate of 50 per year, as reported by Camille Bains of The Canadian Press via TheStar.com. She reveals that this information comes courtesy of the director of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, Pierre Voisine, who notes that Canada has no official database to house such statistics.

Voisine, who is also the fire chief in Cornwall, Ontario, believes that that not enough is being done to protect Canadians against carbon monoxide poisoning. He points out that homeowners aren’t required to install detectors the way they are smoke alarms. Bains reports that, in 2010, a national building code made it mandatory for new homes to come equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, but homes built before that year are susceptible to undetected exposure.

Because of its odourless and colourless nature, carbon monoxide is a gas that often kills people while they’re sleeping. Naturally, mandatory CO detectors would save a lot of lives. “It’s very difficult for a community to try to enforce something that’s not mandated,” Voisine is quoted as saying in the article, “Until that happens everywhere it’s very challenging.”

There is, however, hope for the province of Ontario. In 2014, Voisine explains, Ontario updated its fire code to include carbon monoxide detectors in both new and old homes. The amendment was inspired by the 2008 deaths of a police officer and her family who were killed by CO poisoning due to a blocked chimney in their Woodstock home.

Not only is carbon monoxide undetectable by the nose or the eyes, but it’s difficult to tell if the symptoms associated with exposure to the gas are actually being caused by exposure to the gas. Raynald Marchand is the general manager of the Canadian Safety Council. In Bains’ article, he explains that people exposed to fumes can experience headaches, dizziness and nausea. Considering the commonality of these symptoms, it’s not surprising that most people don’t associate them with a possible CO problem in their homes.

Carbon monoxide, however, is more common than most people think. It can be produced any time fossil fuels are burned. Furnaces, stoves and fireplaces are most commonly guilty of this. Marchand, himself, was saved by a CO detector in his home in December of 2014. While experiencing a mild headache, the detector started beeping. He and his teenage daughter left the home, likely saving their lives in the process.

Briana Koop of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan also owes her life to a carbon monoxide detector. It alarmed her and her family as well as her daughter’s friend during a sleepover on an early Sunday morning in January. “For sure our whole family would have been gone if that didn’t happen,” Koop recalls, “The thing that was really most haunting to me was picturing these friends coming to pick up their kid in the morning and finding all five of us in the home.”

Clearly, protection against carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious matter for all Canadians. At DF Technical & Consulting Services Ltd., we offer Air Quality Services that detect indoor air quality problems including CO. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call us at 1-855-668-3131 or email info@dftechnical.ca.

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