How to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning

WATCH: (Mar. 17, 2014) It’s a life-saving device arguably more important than a smoke detector. How often should you reset your carbon monoxide detector and where should you put the device in your home? Cindy Pom reports.

TORONTO – The province of Ontario passed a bill in late 2013 that made carbon monoxide (CO) detectors mandatory in most Ontario homes.

The Hawkins Gignac Act, in memory of a Woodstock family killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in 2008, applies to all homes with gas appliances, such as stoves, fireplaces and houses with attached garages.

READ MORE: Suspected carbon monoxide poisoning kills 3 in Brampton

The law, similar to requirements for smoke detectors, is enforced by local fire departments under the Fire Prevention and Protection Act.


Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless, tasteless gas that is a byproduct of the combustion of natural gas, propane, home heating oil or wood.

Story continues below advertisement

CO enters the body through the lungs, replaces oxygen in the blood and prevents the flow of oxygen to the heart, brain and other vital organs.

The National Fire Protection Association says a person can be poisoned by a small amount of CO over a longer period of time or by a large amount of CO over a shorter amount of time.


The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs recommends homeowners to regularly maintain appliances and to make sure they are properly ventilated.

It’s also important to have your chimney inspected by a certified professional every year.

When installing CO detectors, it’s best to place them as near as possible to sleeping areas and must not be blocked by furniture or draperies.

The Hawkins-Gignac Foundation for CO Education offers a three point health checklist for families.

Step 1: Have a licensed inspector give your fuel-burning systems the all-clear before turning on the heat each fall.

Step 2: To add CO alarms, one per floor is recommended by the National Fire Protection Association and, at a minimum, outside sleeping areas. Make sure it has a CSA 6.19-01 certification sticker on the package.

Story continues below advertisement

Step 3: Ensure you replace your old CO alarms after five to ten years. The sensors wear out and can become obstructed over time.

Quick Tips

  • Have fuel-burning appliances, such as a furnace or hot water heater, inspected regularly according to the manufacturer’s specifications
  • Check the furnace filter monthly and clean or replace when dirty
  • Clear debris, snow and ice from vents and chimneys
  • Ensure areas around fuel-burning appliances are clutter-free
  • Check the flame of all natural gas appliances; it should be blue
  • Don’t idle vehicles inside an attached garage or near appliance/furnace intake vents
  • Open a window near a wood-burning fireplace
  • Install and maintain a CO detector according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Visibly mark CO detector’s expiry date on it with a marker
  • Replace CO detector’s battery annually
  • Vacuum CO detector monthly