Cut carbon monoxide risk this winter

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

As we head into winter, South Australians who are starting to fire up their heaters to escape the chill are being warned about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

In 2015/16 a total of 29 people presented to emergency departments in SA with carbon monoxide related poisoning conditions, the highest number in the past five years.

SA Health Director Public Health Services Dr Kevin Buckett said 14 people had already presented to EDs this financial year and that number could rise as more people use gas appliances, such as unflued gas heaters which can be a significant source of carbon monoxide.

“Carbon monoxide is a ‘silent killer’ because it has no smell, taste or colour, meaning it is difficult to detect,” Dr Buckett said.

“The gas can build up in unventilated rooms and people can inhale it without realising, so it is important to make sure that there is adequate ventilation with fresh air.”

“That’s why people need to be aware of carbon dioxide poisoning symptoms which can include persistent tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, vomiting and loss of consciousness.

“Unflued gas heaters also emit other pollutants which can cause respiratory infections, exacerbate asthma symptoms and increase coughing and wheezing.

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

Rob Faunt, Technical Regulator, Office of the Technical Regulator, 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 Faunt 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 ventilation or exhaust fans or air conditioning distribution systems.”

Anyone experiencing symptoms should seek medical attention immediately by calling HealthDirect on 1800 022 222 or visiting their GP to seek assistance. In the case of emergency, always dial triple zero (000).

SA Emergency Department presentations due to carbon monoxide

  2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/Feb 2017
Total 16 15 19 28 29 14

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