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Two Gases That You Should Know About

What you can’t see can hurt you!  There are two gases that can be very hazardous in your home – natural gas and carbon monoxide.

Natural Gas

I use natural gas for my furnace and hot water heater.  My supplier, Enbridge, sent a flyer with this month’s invoice (the information is also on its website) – “Smell Gas? Act Fast!

Natural gas can be explosive when mixed with air in certain concentrations.  You really don’t want to trigger an explosion!

Natural gas and propane gas have been spiked with a substance (mercaptan) that has a distinctive rotten egg smell.  If you smell it in your home, you need to go outside and call the 24 hour emergency number for your gas company.  (For Enbridge customers in Toronto, it is 1-866-763-5427.)  Leaving the windows and doors open on you way out can help keep the concentrations low.  Your gas company will come and turn of the gas and make sure that it is safe for you to go back into your home.

Here are the actions that you must not  do when you smell natural gas in your home:

  • DO NOT use a phone or any electronics in the house.
  • DO NOT turn on or off any lights or appliance (sparks can happen in the switches).
  • DO NOT smoke or use a lighter or matches.
  • DO NOT start a vehicle or motor.

If you have leaking natural gas that is burning, call 911.  Don’t try to put it out yourself.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Carbon monoxide is call the “Silent Killer” because it has no smell, no taste and no colour.  It is the leading cause of accidental poisonings in Ontario.  High exposure to carbon monoxide can lead to unconsciousness and even death.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • at low exposures include mild headaches, shortness of breath and nausea.
  • at higher exposures include headaches,nausea, burning eyes, confusion and drowsiness.

The symptoms tend to disappear when a person gets fresh air.  The treatment for low exposure is fresh air, however for high exposure pure oxygen is needed.

The Ontario Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) has a website dedicated to Carbon Monoxide.  Did you know – in Ontario over 80% of carbon monoxide poisonings occur in the home?

Carbon monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion, which means it is created when you burn something inefficiently – which in the home probably means anytime you are burning something and includes natural gas, propane, wood, oil and kerosene.

To protect yourself, your family and guests you need to:

  • Install carbon monoxide detectors (alarm) on each level of your home and test monthly.  The alarm on the detector will allow you to vacate your home before levels put you at risk.
  • Have your fuel burning appliances (oil or gas furnaces, gas-fireplaces, gas-hot water heaters, gas-stoves, etc.) inspected annually.
  • Not use outdoor fuel-burning appliances (such as generators, outdoor space heaters or barbecues) indoors.

Have you ever had close encounters with either of these gases?  

Please share your stories in the comments section.

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