9_Carbon_Monoxide Health and Safety Information Bulletin 15: Carbon Monoxide

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous, colourless, odourless and tasteless gas. Although it has no detectable odour, CO is often mixed with other gases that do have an odour. Therefore, you can inhale CO right along with gases that you can smell and not even know that CO is present.

CO is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it in.

Who is at risk from CO poisoning?

Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Employees, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO.

Prolonged significant exposure to CO can cause serious complications, including brain damage and heart problems. In very severe cases, it can result in death. Effects of severe CO poisoning include:

  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Delirium
  • Unconsciousness
  • Confusion

How to reduce the risks

To reduce the risks you need to:

  • Test the CO monitor system
  • Know the signs and symptoms
  • Check heating systems and fuel-burning appliances annually
  • Avoid the use of non-vented combustion appliances and get them serviced regularly
  • Never burn fuels indoors except in stoves or furnaces that are made for this purpose
  • For your home, install CO alarms near sleeping areas