Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless and highly poisonous gas that is produced when natural gas or LPG burns. The human body doesn’t recognise when carbon monoxide is present, which means it can easily kill you – it’s often called ‘the silent killer’ for this reason.
Using gas appliances safely means they should only produce a small, safe amount of carbon monoxide.
Faulty or poorly maintained gas appliances present a very high risk of causing carbon monoxide poisoning of the people in your home.
If you have a gas appliance in your home, or you are a landlord who rents out homes with indoor gas appliances, ensure they are serviced every two years to minimise the risk of faults occurring.
In 2010, Chase and Tyler Robinson, aged 8 and 6, died of carbon monoxide poisoning from an unserviced gas heater in their home that had developed a fault. The Chase and Tyler Foundation now raises awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide and aims to improve gas safety knowledge around Australia.
Watch Today Tonight's Gas Heater Warnings video on their website (4 minutes).
The Silent Killer – courtesy of Energy Safe Victoria
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning may occur while using a gas appliance, or immediately after using one. Be aware of:
If you feel alright when you are out in the fresh air but experience any of the symptoms listed above when using a gas appliance or heater in your home, seek immediate medical attention and tell your doctor that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.
To determine if there is any carbon monoxide in your blood, the doctor will need to do a blood test. If the results confirm there is carbon monoxide in your blood, stop using your gas appliances at home immediately and organise for a licensed gas fitter to check and service them.
Extreme carbon monoxide poisoning may lead to confusion, loss of consciousness (this can occur quickly if the level of carbon monoxide is high) and even death.
Some people are especially sensitive or susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning including:
To treat a person who is suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, move them to a well ventilated, gas-free area. Call emergency services on 000 and start the DRSABCD resuscitation procedure, being careful not to inhale the air coming out of the patient.
If you are concerned about carbon monoxide levels in your home, workplace or other area, contact a licensed gas fitter to test the levels for you.
The Australian Government's Department of Environment and Energy provides health guidance on safe exposure levels of carbon monoxide, which includes an eight-hour time weighted average exposure limit in the workplace of 30 parts per million (ppm) (34 mg/m3).
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