BC Ambulance Service
VICTORIA – With the recent cold snap, BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) is reminding the public to use only approved, properly-vented fireplaces, blankets and winter clothing to keep warm if your home is without power.
Appliances that use natural gas, liquified petroleum, oil, kerosene, coal, charcoal and wood as fuel may produce carbon monoxide, a colourless, odourless and tasteless toxic gas. Incomplete combustion of any fuel produces carbon monoxide which, if inhaled, reduces the capacity of the blood to transport oxygen, which can be fatal. Interruption of the normal supply of oxygen puts the functions of the heart, brain and other vital functions of the body at risk.
The initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle pains, nausea and dizziness. In the past 12 months, BCAS paramedics have responded to over 80 medical incidents province-wide that involved carbon monoxide poisoning.
Persons suffering from heart or respiratory health problems, infants and small children, expectant mothers and pets can be affected by carbon monoxide poisoning more quickly than others in the household and may be the first to show symptoms.
The only way to detect carbon monoxide is with a carbon monoxide detector alarms.
Most homes are well-insulated and indoor air isn’t easily exchanged with fresh, outdoor air. Gas generators, gas or charcoal barbecues, diesel fuel, propane, natural gas, butane and improperly ventilated wood stoves are all designed for outdoor use only.
If you suspect that you or anyone you know may have been exposed to or poisoned by carbon monoxide, ventilate the area to the outside, evacuate the building and please call 9-1-1 immediately. For areas not serviced by 9-1-1, please call 1-800-461-9911.
Callers should inform the emergency medical dispatcher that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning to ensure the safety of paramedics and other first responders that arrive to assist.