Revelstoke resident raises awareness about carbon monoxide danger after close call

Mike Watson is sharing his recent experience with carbon monoxide poisoning in the hopes it will help raise awareness.

Mike Watson wants to raise awareness about carbon monoxide poisoning. Photo: Mike Watson.

Mike Watson is hoping sharing his recent experience with carbon monoxide poisoning will help raise awareness.

In late December, Watson was cleaning out the pellet stove in his house. He happened to walk by the carbon monoxide detector in the house and noticed it was registering 63 PPM (parts per million). The detector’s alarm is set to go off if the carbon monoxide levels register 70 PPM or higher. However, Watson says CO levels in a household should be at zero.

“I walked by and my eyes just opened wide,” said Watson. “I called a friend who works with the fire department and they told me to call the fire department.”

Watson had walked outside prior to calling the fire department, but went back in to get his cats who had not come out. Because Watson’s house is somewhat difficult to find, he chose to walk down the road a bit in order to meet the firefighters. Watson said while walking back to the house he began to feel dizzy. He went over to a neighbour’s house to wait for paramedics to come assess his health. The paramedics decided it was best for Watson to go up to Queen Victoria Hospital as a precaution.

“I ended up on oxygen for six hours. It was nothing serious but I did have higher CO levels than normal,” said Watson. “It could have been a lot worse.”

Watson said at one point the doctor in attendance said it was a good thing came in when he did. According to Watson the Revelstoke Fire Department pinpointed his pellet stove as the cause of the high levels of carbon monoxide. He has since had the pellet stove repaired.

Watson says he is thankful to both the fire department and his neighbours for helping him out.

What is carbon monoxide and what causes it?

Known as “the silent killer,” carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odorless gas. Sources of household CO can include appliances, heating systems, water heaters, cookers and fires using gas, oil, coal and wood. Carbon monoxide is released when the fuel does not burn completely.

According to Technical Safety BC, some of the warning signs of CO include:

-Loose, disconnected, water-streaked or rusty chimney vents
-CO alarm sounds
-Discolouration of fuel-burning appliances or heating system warm air vents
-Window condensation
-Sick or dying pets or plants
-Soot build-up or discolouration on fireplaces

What should you do if you suspect you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide?

Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, vomiting, chest pain, confusion and drowsiness, fast heartbeat, and vision problems.

If you suspect you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide, you should get outside immediately and then call 911 for help. If you are unable to get outside move to an open window or door. Getting medical attention promptly is key as CO poisoning can be fatal if left untreated. Doctors can order a blood test to measure the amount of carbon monoxide in your blood. In some instances oxygen therapy is required to help reduce CO levels. Do not return to the area where the CO exposure occurred until you are sure it is safe to do so if you are unsure the fire department can tell you when it is safe.

Steps for prevention

The BC Ministry of Public Safety recommends homeowners either install smoke alarms with built-in CO detectors or add a standalone CO detector to their household. In the case of rental units, landlords are responsible for installing smoke alarms and ensuring they are in working condition prior to tenant occupancy. Having a CO detector helps to provide early warning signs in the event of unsafe CO levels.

In addition to installing CO alarms, Technical Safety BC says scheduling an appliance inspection is also a good method of prevention. A licensed gas fitter can confirm any gas appliances and venting systems are in good working order.