Carbon Monoxide in Long-Term Care Facilities

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Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colourless, and non-irritating gas that is harmful to humans. As a by-product of incomplete combustion, CO is produced by fuel-burning appliances including boilers, furnaces, fireplaces, kitchen stoves, and laundry dryers. Cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust also contribute to indoor CO levels. At low levels of exposure, symptoms can include headache, nausea, and shortness of breath. Higher levels or chronic low-level exposure can result in irritability, drowsiness, or dizziness. Dangerously high levels can result in unconsciousness, convulsions, and death.

In 2010, a CO exposure incident at a long-term care facility (LTCFs) in Saskatchewan resulted in 31 individuals being sent to hospital and contributed to three deaths (CBC News, 2010).  Subsequently, Saskatoon Health Region implemented a policy to identify, monitor, and respond to elevated indoor CO in these facilities (CBC News, 2016). 

To advance the development of a health-protective CO management strategy in LTCFs across Canada, the NCCEH/BCCDC convened a consultation with experts to discuss the development of a framework and practical means for implementation (Barn and Kosatsky, 2013). We then performed an evaluation of Saskatoon Health Region’s CO monitoring and reporting policy that indicated its utility in the prevention of CO exposures in LTCFs (Fong, 2016). Finally, tools were developed to increase the capacity for health agencies to implement the Carbon Monoxide (CO) Monitoring and Response Framework in LTCFs.  With support from Health Canada, this framework was developed through consultations between NCCEH/BCCDC and Saskatoon Health Region (Fong, 2016). The Framework provides a method to assist long-term care facilities in ensuring indoor CO is below Health Canada’s maximum exposure limit of 10 ppm over 24 hours, which is intended to protect the entire population from the health effects associated with short-term and long-term exposures to CO  (Health Canada, 2010). Implementing the Framework in long-term care facilities is intentional as residents include those with underlying heart conditions that increase their susceptibility to the harmful effects of CO.

NCCEH Resources

Selected External Resources


This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Omission of a resource does not preclude it from having value.

Last updated Nov 07, 2016