Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week: stay safe from silent killer

WA’s gas safety regulator is urging people to avoid potentially lethal exposure to carbon monoxide by ensuring their gas appliances are well maintained, used correctly and not subject to product safety alerts.

Building and Energy’s warning comes as Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week (27 April to 3 May) gets underway and households prepare for cooler weather.

Director of Energy Safety Saj Abdoolakhan says people could be putting their health at risk when they switch on gas heaters for the first time.

“Faulty, poorly maintained or misused gas heaters can leak carbon monoxide – a poisonous, invisible and odourless gas that can cause serious illness and even death,” he said.

“Air filters, airways, fans and burners can become blocked by lint and dust while gas heaters are in storage over the warmer months. This can cause overheating and burner problems that produce carbon monoxide.

“Gas appliances should be checked and serviced by a licensed gas fitter or service agent at least every two years. If the appliance is more than 10 years old, it should be checked annually.”

Signs that a gas appliance is faulty or in need of a service include difficulty relighting, discolouration of the outer case or a yellow flame rather than a steady blue flame.

Mr Abdoolakhan said it was also vital to use gas appliances correctly and with appropriate ventilation.

“Check that the room has a good airflow to help dilute combustion products, and that ventilation openings and flues are not blocked or obstructed,” he said.

“Avoid using kitchen rangehoods or exhaust fans at the same time as your heater. This can create a negative pressure environment, where carbon monoxide is drawn into living spaces.

“It’s also important to know which type of gas heater you have, as open-flued or flueless models have particular ventilation requirements. Never use outdoor appliances, such as patio heaters, inside the house.”

People should also check if their open-flued gas heater is one of the models included in a national safety alert due to carbon monoxide risks. Owners of these gas heaters should stop using them immediately.

Exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide may cause flu-like symptoms such as headaches, weakness, fatigue and nausea. Higher levels and prolonged exposure can result in severe headaches, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, vomiting, seizures and collapse. In extreme cases, this can lead to coma and death.

“Medical attention should be sought immediately if these symptoms are present or if carbon monoxide inhalation is suspected,” Mr Abdoolakhan said.

For more gas safety information, visit the Building and Energy website (or via dmirs.wa.gov.au).

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