Carbon Monoxide in the Home

Is it the flu or is it your flue?

Many of the symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning have people thinking they are suffering from a common flu. However exposure to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can lead to brain damage or death.

Sometimes called the “silent killer”, CO is a toxic, odourless and colourless gas. It is produced when wood and fossil fuels, including heating oil, kerosene, gasoline, diesel, propane or natural gas, burn without enough oxygen.

How can CO form in my home or garage?

CO can build up in a home because of faulty appliances, a buildup of engine exhaust, blocked chimneys or air vents, or back-drafting of flue gases. It can also happen when fireplaces, wood stoves, kitchen and bathroom fans, clothes dryers, central vacuum systems and heating equipment compete for air.

What are symptoms of CO poisoning?

A low exposure to CO can result in shortness of breath, and slight headache. Higher concentrations can result in severe headache, dizziness, nausea, mental confusion, difficulty hearing and seeing, fainting, and in extreme cases, death.

How can I protect myself and my family from CO poisoning?

Preventative maintenance can help you avoid a CO emergency. Have your heating system checked regularly, make sure external vents are unblocked from snow or debris, and if you have a fireplace or chimney, make sure it has a fresh air intake duct. Never use a generator or barbecue indoors as they can create dangerous levels of toxic carbon monoxide very quickly.

How can I tell if there is CO in my home?

Because CO can’t be detected by the human senses, have a CO detector on every floor in your home. And, if it goes off, don’t turn it off. Treat the alarm as an emergency and call Manitoba Hydro immediately. Test your detector(s) regularly as recommended by the manufacturer.

What can I do if I suspect CO poisoning?

Leave the house immediately to get fresh air and call 911 for help.

If you suspect equipment malfunction, call Manitoba Hydro for an emergency inspection at 1-888-MB HYDRO

Prepared by Linda Carter, PHEc Public Safety & Education Coordinator, Manitoba Hydro