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Carbon monoxide poisoning, DIY dangers were factors in B.C. couple’s deaths, watchdog says

Technical Safety BC has released its findings into two separate fatal incidents, and the deadly dangers associated with carbon monoxide. One such incident involved a tankless hot water tank in Tulameen.
Technical Safety BC has released its findings into two separate fatal incidents, and the deadly dangers associated with carbon monoxide. One such incident involved a tankless hot water tank in Tulameen. Technical Safety BC

Gas appliances need to be properly installed, or there could be tragic consequences.

That’s the bottom line from Technical Safety BC after investigations into two fatal incidents this summer, including one in Tulameen in B.C.’s Southern Interior, where a couple died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning.

Technical Safety BC says its findings highlight the need for greater public awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Read more: Carbon monoxide poisoning suspected in deaths of 2 B.C. residents

According to Technical Safety BC, the first incident occurred on June 27, at Egmont on the Sunshine Coast, where one person died and another person was injured at a recreational cabin.

Investigators identified improperly installed propane appliances, which were also not certified for use in Canada.

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In the second incident, at Tulameen, investigators found that an on-demand propane tankless water heater was improperly installed in a shower building.

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Technical Safety BC said “DIY installations are known to present a greater risk of carbon monoxide exposure, and the incident investigation reports into both of these incidents revealed that appliances were installed in a hazardous manner inconsistent with Canadian code and certification standards.”

“Both incidents occurred on recreational properties where the owners had completed their own installations of propane-burning appliances,” added Jeff Coleman of Technical Safety BC.

“Due to the nature of off-the-grid and recreational properties, we tend to see a lot of well-intentioned, but potentially dangerous DIY installations.”

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Coleman added that “although it can be difficult to find licensed contractors and installers for remote properties, these incidents show the importance of ensuring all fuel-burning appliances are installed safely and to the manufacturer’s specifications.”

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Technical Safety BC describes carbon monoxide as a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that’s produced when fuels are burned incompletely, including propane, natural gas, oil, wood, charcoal, alcohol, kerosene, or gasoline.

It says exposure to carbon monoxide interferes with the body’s ability to absorb oxygen, and that breathing in too much carbon monoxide can result in serious injury or death.

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“While carbon monoxide usually leads to headaches and nausea as initial symptoms, there are times where it simply causes you to pass out,” said Dr. Bruce Campana of Vancouver General Hospital.

“Carbon monoxide alarms are like wearing a seat belt – most of the time you don’t need them, but when you do, you really do.”

To see more about Technical Safety BC’s report on the Tulameen incident, click here. To see more about the Egmont incident, click here.

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