Ask the Electrical Work Expert – Russel Fossum
It has no smell, no taste and no colour, but its effects can be deadly when it seeps undetected through a home.
It is a huge safety concern as people are turning on their furnaces for the first time of the year. Cracked heat exchangers are the most deadly leaks of Carbon Monoxide.
How it’s produced
Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as natural gas, gasoline, oil, propane, wood or coal are burned. The danger is magnified when that combustion is not properly ventilated, or when the CO can’t dissipate because of a blocked or dirty chimney.
CO could also build up to dangerous levels when fuel-burning generators, space heaters, barbecues, grills or other appliances intended for use outside or in well-ventilated spaces are brought indoors or into less-ventilated areas such as garages.
Why it’s so deadly
According to Statistics Canada, there were 380 accidental deaths caused by carbon monoxide in Canada between 2000 and 2009.
CO poses a particular danger because without a working carbon monoxide detector in the vicinity, there are no obvious signs it may be building up around you. It is invisible, and can sap the blood of its ability to absorb oxygen.
“When you breathe in carbon monoxide, it builds up quickly and combines with the blood to produce ‘carboxyhemoglobin’ (COHb), which reduces the ability of blood to carry oxygen,” Health Canada says on its website.
Without oxygen, body tissue and cells can’t function. “The brain is extremely vulnerable to oxygen deprivation,” the Canada Safety Council says.