What Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a powerful gas that is produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels. This gas is odourless, colourless and tasteless. It is harmful when breathed because it displaces oxygen in the blood, depriving the heart, brain, and other vital organs of oxygen. Large amounts of CO can overcome you in minutes without warning- causing you to lose consciousness and suffocate.
Where Is It In My Home?
Any appliance that works by burning gas has the potential to produce carbon monoxide. This includes:
- Gas space heaters
- Ducted heating systems
- Hot water systems (gas)
- Gas ovens
- Portable stoves
- Gas or wood fires in a blocked chimney
What Are The Symptoms?
Carbon monoxide poisoning can take effect in as quickly as 20 minutes and in some cases, death could occur less than 2 hours after initial exposure. Depending on the concentration levels of CO in a room, symptoms will vary in severity. It is important to note that not every single symptom will always be present when experiencing CO poisoning. Symptoms to look out for include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Erratic behaviour
- General lethargy
- Muscle weakness
- Sudden chest pain
- Loss of consciousness
Who Is At Risk?
CO poisoning can affect anyone. However, it is more likely to be fatal to those most susceptible- young children, older people and animals. People with heart or lung disease and smokers are also more likely to be affected than others.
What To Do In An Emergency
In an emergency, you should seek medical attention immediately. CO can leave the body quickly so immediate action could save your life. Our tips for responding to an emergency are:
- Move the victim to an open area with fresh air
- Open all windows and doors
- Switch off the appliance
- Call 000
Fortunately, there are preventative measures you can take to reduce the risk of CO poisoning in your home. Our #1 preventative measure is to have your appliances serviced regularly. Our licensed professionals are able to detect faults or issues in these appliances and can alert you when something might need attention.
Here are other tips you should implement to minimise risk.
- Install a CO alarm. This device sounds when CO is detected and could potentially save a life.
- Make sure gas appliances are in well-ventilated areas
- Have your chimney checked annually
- Never repair a vent pipe yourself, have a professional take care of this
- Leave a window open a crack when operating a gas heater