Carbon monoxide poisoning


Carbon monoxide is a leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in Ontario, Canada and North America.  According to Statistics Canada, between 2000 – 2013 in Canada, there were 1,125 deaths from CO poisoning, including 87 in Ontario (Source: Cohen et al., 2017)Carbon Monoxide alarm


The nature of carbon monoxide poisoning requires proactive safety measures – waiting until after the poisoning has occurred is too late. Without a carbon monoxide alarm, families are unable to detect the presence of this poisonous gas, in any concentration. Symptoms of exposure, such as headaches and nausea, are often mistaken for the flu and either ignored or misdiagnosed. That is why carbon monoxide is referred to as “the silent killer.”  It cannot be detected by people because it is colourless, odourless and tasteless. 


The good news is that carbon monoxide poisoning within the home can be prevented with a few key safety measures.

  • Be aware of the hazard. CO is a highly poisonous gas, often referred to as ‘the silent killer’ because you can’t see it, touch it or smell it.
  • Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. They are similar to the flu – nausea, headache, burning eyes, confusion and drowsiness – except there is no fever. If they appear, immediately get everyone, including pets, outside to fresh air and call 911 or your local fire department.
  • Eliminate CO at the source. Fuel Burning appliances are a common source of CO. Most of these sources are associated with malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances and/or poor venting and confined spaces, like a furnace room, garage, cabin, tent, RV, boat cabin or camper. Have a TSSA-certified fuel technician inspect your fuel-burning appliances every year.
  • Install certified CO alarms in your home. CO alarms are mandatory in Ontario homes. Follow manufacturer’s instruction or ask your local fire department for installation locations, and, remember to test the alarms regularly, replace batteries at least once and year and replace the unit as required

Legislation - Mandatory carbon monoxide alarms in all homes

Did you know that four jurisdictions in Canada now require carbon monoxide detectors in residences? Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and the Yukon all have carbon monoxide legislation. 

Investment in poison prevention strategies is cost-effective:  $1 spent on poison prevention saves $7 in health care costs.  Most carbon monoxide alarms cost less than $35:  about two cents a day over the suggested lifespan of a CO alarm.




Cohen, I, Garis, L, Rajabali F, Pike I. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Hospitalizations and Deaths in Canada. A report by the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit, for the University of the Fraser Valley: Vancouver, BC. October, 2017. Available at>