NAUWIGEWAUK (GNB) – As New Brunswickers perform routine spring maintenance and clean up after recent flooding, they are reminded to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Carbon monoxide poisonings can occur at any time of year,” said acting fire marshal Michael Lewis. “So, as people are working to run generators and other equipment that increase carbon monoxide poisoning, we are reminding them to take steps to keep themselves and their families safe.”

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said exposure to carbon monoxide can be fatal.

“Breathing in carbon monoxide reduces your body's ability to carry oxygen in your blood, and, even when it is not fatal, exposure can have serious long-term effects, including on the brain, heart and fetus of pregnant women,” said Russell. “Because carbon monoxide has no taste, no odour, no colour, and does not irritate the nose, eyes or throat, it poses a serious threat, particularly while people are asleep.”

Lewis offered the following safety tips:

  • Never use generators, pumps or any fuel-powered equipment indoors.
  • Powered equipment should always be placed at least four metres from any structure.
  • In the event of a power outage or in de-energized homes, never use carbon-based fuels such as kerosene, gas or fuel oil indoors to heat or cook. These appliances generate carbon monoxide.
  • Temporary heating appliances such as propane or kerosene heaters should never be used indoors. They present a fire hazard.
  • If exposed to floodwaters, carbon-based fuel equipment should be inspected by professionals before use.
  • People should ensure their home is equipped with functioning battery-powered smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Use heating or drying equipment carefully. Keep combustible material away from devices that generate heat.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur quickly. Anyone who believes they have been affected by carbon monoxide poisoning should go outside immediately and then go to the nearest hospital or call 911.

“Carbon monoxide absorbs into the bloodstream more easily than oxygen, and breathing in carbon monoxide reduces your body’s ability to carry oxygen through your blood,” said Tim Nickerson, regional emergency measures co-ordinator with the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization. “Carbon monoxide poisoning can have serious long-term effects on memory, brain function, behaviour and cognition. A CO alarm is your best defence in protecting you and your loved ones from carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.”

Nickerson, Russell and Lewis participated in an event held as part of National Emergency Preparedness Week, May 5-11. The theme for this year’s campaign is Be Emergency Ready.