26 May 2016

Householders warned of heater gas risk

The Department of Health is warning Western Australian householders not to leave fires or heaters burning overnight.

It is also warning against burning fuels such as charcoal briquettes inside the house or of using unflued heaters in areas with inadequate ventilation.

The warning comes after a case of carbon monoxide poisoning over the weekend, the result of a charcoal BBQ being brought indoors to provide heating.

Western Australia’s Chief Health Officer Tarun Weeramanthri said householders needed to ensure heating appliances were in good working order and flued to the outside of their homes, to prevent carbon monoxide accumulating indoors.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and highly poisonous gas produced by the incomplete combustion of carbon or a carbon compound.

Any fuel-burning appliance is a potential source of carbon monoxide.

Professor Weeramanthri said a build-up of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, resulting in serious tissue damage or even death.

Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion. High levels of inhalation can cause loss of consciousness.

“Somebody who is intoxicated or sleeping can die from carbon monoxide poisoning without ever experiencing symptoms,” Professor Weeramanthri said.

“Anybody who believes they might be experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning should go outside immediately and not return inside until they have recovered completely.

“Once in the fresh air, recovery is usually fast so if this does not happen it is important to call Health Direct on 1800 022 222 or the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26. In an emergency call 000.”

Professor Weeramanthri said some fuels produced more carbon monoxide than others and that charcoal briquettes produced a big amount so should never be used in indoors.

Visit the HealthyWA website for further information about carbon monoxide safety.