The Globe and Mail (BC Edition) - - BRITISH COLUMBIA -

A se­nior para­medic in Bri­tish Columbia is en­cour­ag­ing home­own­ers to buy car­bon monox­ide de­tec­tors and in­spect their ap­pli­ances fol­low­ing a spike in poi­son­ings in the past week.

Leon Bara­nowski, para­medic prac­tice leader with B.C. Emer­gency Health Ser­vices, says the colour­less and odour­less gas can be emit­ted from fu­els in­clud­ing wood, gaso­line, coal and propane when they don’t burn com­pletely.

“At this time of year, as peo­ple start to turn on their wa­ter heaters, their gas ap­pli­ances, fire places and panel heaters in un­ven­ti­lated spa­ces, car­bon monox­ide has the po­ten­tial to build up in that en­vi­ron­ment. Over time, that can start to over­come pa­tients and af­fect them,” Mr. Bara­nowski said.

A fam­ily of five from Bar­riere, B.C., was air­lifted to a hos­pi­tal in Van­cou­ver in se­ri­ous but sta­ble con­di­tion on Thurs­day.

On Wed­nes­day, 13 peo­ple with car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing were taken to hos­pi­tal from an of­fice build­ing in Van­cou­ver.

Paramedics in the prov­ince re­spond to about 100 cases of car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing over the course of the year, she said.

Mr. Bara­nowski said pa­tients at the lower end of the spec­trum can present cold and flu-like symp­toms, in­clud­ing a dull headache, weak­ness, dizzi­ness, nau­sea and vom­it­ing.

“As the symp­toms progress af­ter pro­longed ex­po­sure, that can lead to in­creased short­ness of breath, con­fu­sion, blurred vi­sion, loss of con­scious­ness and, in the worst case, even death. Car­bon monox­ide starts to re­place oxy­gen in the body, which we all need to func­tion,” he said.

Car­bon monox­ide de­tec­tors are be­tween $50 and $100 to pur­chase he said, and when the alarm sounds that means it’s time to get out of the build­ing quickly.

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