Carbon monoxide poisoning warning

With winter upon us, South Australians are being warned of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can occur when common heating appliances are misused or used without sufficient ventilation.

SA Health’s Director of Health Protection, Dr Chris Lease, said carbon monoxide is known as a silent killer and heating appliances that use gas, wood, oil or kerosene can put people at risk of exposure to the poisonous gas.

“Carbon monoxide can be fatal, and both people and animals can’t actually tell if they are breathing in carbon monoxide because it has no taste, smell or colour,” Dr Lease said.

“What can happen in poorly ventilated rooms is the gas, which is a waste product of fuel-burning heaters, can build-up and people can inhale it without even realising.

“In South Australia there were 31 emergency department presentations for carbon monoxide poisoning related conditions in 2017-18.

“Barbecues and grills that use charcoal briquettes also pose a risk and there have been cases of accidental poisonings and death interstate when charcoal has been burned in a poorly ventilated area.”

Metropolitan Fire Service Commander of Community Safety and Resilience, Phil Crossley, said it is important to people know how to use appliances safely and ensure that there is adequate ventilation with fresh air when they are used.

“Every cubic metre of natural gas needs 10 cubic metres of air for complete combustion and LPG requires 24 cubic metres of air,” Commander Crossley said.

“Too little air causes incomplete combustion which produces carbon monoxide.

“It is important to never use heaters or appliances marked as ‘outdoor use only’ for heating inside or in any fully enclosed area that doesn’t have adequate ventilation.

“This includes LPG and patio heaters, as well as barbecues and fire grills that use charcoal briquettes, which should never be used indoors for warmth or cooking.”

Infrastructure Manager for the Office of the Technical Regulator, Trevor Tucker, said regular maintenance of appliances is critical to avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“People should ensure all gas appliances are serviced by a licensed gasfitter at the manufacturer recommended service intervals or at least once every two years,” Mr Tucker said.

“It is recommended that the appliance is checked for correct installation and that it is not adversely affected by any mechanical air movement systems, such as exhaust fans or air conditioning distribution systems.”

Babies and young children, pregnant women, the elderly and immobile and those with respiratory problems are most vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include persistent tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, vomiting and loss of consciousness.

Anyone who experiences symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning should seek medical attention immediately.

In the case of emergency, always dial triple zero (000).

SA ED presentations fromcarbon monoxide related poisoning:

Year 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19 (YTD)
Cases 28 29 15 31 9

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