Edmonton

Suspected carbon monoxide death in Edmonton stark reminder of 'silent killer'

The death of an Edmonton man from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning is further proof Alberta needs better safety standards, says a man who lost four family members to the "silent killer."

'I want to get those laws passed, because the longer we wait, the more people will be affected'

Essentials on carbon monoxide detectors

6 years ago
Duration 1:05
Jared Anderst of ATCO customer service describes the best practices for using home carbon monoxide detectors

The death of an Edmonton man from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning is further proof of the need for improved safety standards in Alberta, says a man who lost four family members to the "silent killer."

"Back in 2008, around this time of year, my family had an accident. I lost my niece, her husband and both of their children to carbon monoxide poisoning," said John Gignac, a retired Brantford, Ont. fire captain and executive director of the Hawkins-Gignac Foundation.

"It was a devastating blow to our family, especially around Christmas time."

When Laurie Hawkins, her husband Richard, and their children Cassandra and Jordan were fatally poisoned inside their home, Gignac decided to honour the family by starting the foundation for carbon monoxide education.

Gignac has since lobbied across Canada for legislation requiring the installation of mandatory in-home carbon monoxide detectors.

'I wanted to warn Canadians'

"Back then, carbon monoxide was one of those things that slipped through the cracks and nobody knew much about it," Gignac said in an interview with CBC Radio`s Edmonton AM.

"I wanted to warn Canadians about this silent killer."

His efforts were successful in his home province of Ontario, and in Yukon. However, the need for carbon monoxide sensors remains largely unregulated in other Canadian jurisdictions.

Gignac urges Edmontonians to get carbon monoxide detectors, which were not required under provincial building codes until 2006.

Although the changes ensure sensors are properly installed in newly constructed homes, Gignac would like to see the building code requirements — and better regulation for older properties — enacted into law, so that every home is protected.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless gas that is highly poisonous. At low levels, exposure to it can cause flu-like symptoms without fever. Prolonged exposure can lead to unconsciousness and death.

One person died and four others were taken to hospital after a suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at a home in north Edmonton Sunday evening.

A 34-year-old man, who police said was a tenant in the basement, was found dead, along with a pet.  Police suspect the wood fireplace was the cause.

On Oct. 21, an Edmonton family of six was rushed to hospital after their home, a south Edmonton condo, was filled with carbon monoxide.

Although their children were unharmed, Hussein Turi and his wife Hugitu, who had been pregnant, say she suffered a miscarriage hours after being admitted to hospital.

"I want to get those laws passed, because the longer we wait, the more people will be affected," Gignac said.

"I'm hoping that we can get the law passed in Alberta as soon as possible so these tragedies won't happen." 

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