Canadians have concerning knowledge gap around CO

Following Carbon Monoxide Week 2020, Technical Safety BC reports Canadians have concerning knowledge gap about the dangers of the “silent killer”

Study findings show Canadians need more awareness around the dangers of carbon monoxide

Key study findings

  • Less than 1-in-5 Canadians are ‘very knowledgeable’ about carbon monoxide, indicating the need for more education about this potentially deadly risk.
  • Only 1-in-2 Canadians have checked to ensure their carbon monoxide alarms are working properly in the last year.
  • 3-in-10 Canadians are not sure of the potential sources of carbon monoxide in their home.
  • 38% of Canadians are unaware that carbon monoxide alarms have expiry dates and need to be replaced according to the manufacturer’s expiry date.
  • 71% of Canadians either do not know the signs of carbon monoxide buildup in their home or are unsure what the signs are.


Vancouver, BC (November 9, 2020) – The first week of November marked British Columbia’s second annual Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week. A recently commissioned study from PMG Intelligence revealed that 71 percent of Canadians either do not know the signs of carbon monoxide buildup in their home or are unsure what the signs are.  

Carbon monoxide can build up in the home when fuels in a fuel-burning appliance, such as a gas stove, burn incompletely. The effects of this build up can be devastating and being exposed to too much carbon monoxide for too long can result in death.  

“Carbon monoxide is one of those safety risks that exists in almost every home in British Columbia, but easily goes unrecognized. This is what makes it so dangerous,” says Ryan Milligan, Senior Safety Gas Officer with Technical Safety BC. “That’s why public education and awareness is so critical to saving lives.”

Less than 1-in-5 Canadians are very knowledgeable about this colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas. With British Columbians hospitalized every year due to carbon monoxide exposure—and two fatal cases of carbon monoxide poisoning this past summer—it is essential that the province as a whole takes steps to better understand how to stay carbon monoxide safe.

Early carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include headaches, confusion, vomiting, weakness, dizziness, and chest pain. That being said, in the cases seen this past summer, the buildup of carbon monoxide was so swift that those impacted did not have time to even recognize any symptoms. The potential for rapid-onset exposure is just another reason why British Columbians should know how to prevent carbon monoxide in their home.

“The reality is that the only reliable way to know if carbon monoxide is present in your home is to use a carbon monoxide detector,” added Milligan. “That’s why Technical Safety BC and health experts recommend all British Columbians not only install a carbon monoxide alarm, but also regularly ensure it is working properly.”

Technical Safety BC is also encouraging British Columbians to learn about potential sources of carbon monoxide in their home, such as gas appliances, and to have those appliances serviced annually by a licensed gas contractor.

With the unique winter conditions that COVID-19 has brought, it’s also important for the province to raise awareness about carbon monoxide outside the home. Patio heater safety is just another part of a larger carbon monoxide awareness issue within Canada, and it’s clear more public education is needed.

Tips for preventing carbon monoxide exposure in your home: 

  • Have fuel-burning appliances installed and inspected regularly by a licensed gas contractor. Find one in your area using the online directory
  • Never use equipment designed for outdoor use, such as barbecues, camp stoves, propane patio heaters, generators or lawnmowers, in any enclosed space.
  • Remove vehicles and gas-powered equipment from the garage immediately after starting the engine.
  • When using a wood-burning fireplace, open the damper and partially open a window or door at the fireplace level. Close the damper only after the fire is completely out, and ashes have cooled.
  • In addition to getting your appliances serviced and inspected annually, install carbon monoxide alarms so that you will be alerted if carbon monoxide is present and provide extra protection for your home and family.
    • If your carbon monoxide alarm is battery operated, check the batteries at least twice a year.
    • Carbon monoxide alarms expire. Replace all alarms according to manufacturers’ instructions.

If your alarm indicates high carbon monoxide levels in your home or you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Open all doors and windows and get outside to fresh air immediately.
  • Seek emergency medical attention for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Symptoms include flu-like symptoms such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, burning eyes, confusion, drowsiness and even loss of consciousness.
  • Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number, and your gas service provider’s 24-hour emergency line. Don’t go back into the building until it’s safe.
    • FortisBC: 1-800-663-9911
    • Pacific Northern Gas: 1-800-663-1173
  • After returning to the building, have a licensed contractor inspect your gas appliances.

Read the full carbon monoxide report:

About Technical Safety BC
Technical Safety BC (formerly BC Safety Authority) is an independent, self-funded organization that oversees the safe installation and operation of technical systems and equipment. In addition to issuing permits, licences and certificates, it works with industry to reduce safety risks through assessment, education and outreach, enforcement, and research. For more information, visit

Media contact:
Technical Safety BC




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