Heater safety warning issued as cold weather hits

SOUTH Australians firing up their heaters to escape the winter chill are being warned about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

SA Health Public Health Services acting director Dr Chris Lease said there had been a 60pc increase in emergency department presentations for carbon monoxide related poisoning conditions so far in 2017/18, compared to 2016/17.

“Carbon monoxide is a ‘silent killer’ because it has no smell, taste or colour and you can die from inhalation before you are even aware of it,” Dr Lease said.

“Any appliance that uses gas, oil, kerosene or wood can produce carbon monoxide and operating appliances like gas and wood heaters in poorly vented areas or where chimney and flue-pipes are blocked can increase the chances of carbon monoxide being produced.

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

Dr Lease said people also need to be aware of carbon dioxide poisoning symptoms, which can include persistent tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, vomiting and loss of consciousness.

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

MFS community safety and resilience commander Greg Howard said people should be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and how to ensure their safety when using gas appliances.

“Anyone purchasing gas appliances, especially unflued gas or ethanol-fuelled heaters, must always ensure they are installed by a qualified tradesperson and only used in rooms with adequate ventilation,” Mr Howard said.

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

Office of the Technical Regulator spokesperson Rob Faunt said regular maintenance of appliances was critical to avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.