Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas. It’s colourless, odourless and tasteless – hence the nickname – which makes it almost impossible to detect yourself. Scary when you consider that once you breathe the gas in, it mixes with your blood cells and prevents them carrying oxygen. Exposure to high levels of it can be fatal – the lack of oxygen essentially stops your body’s central nervous system and heart from functioning – but even low level exposure over a prolonged period can lead to memory loss and depression.
If your gas heater has been on the blink or hasn’t been serviced in two years, get the blankets out until you can get it checked. Why? A faulty heater is one of the biggest risk factors when it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning. Leaking fumes from a faulty heater were behind the tragic deaths of young Victorian boys, Chase and Tyler Robinson, who were just six and eight when they died after inhaling deadly carbon monoxide fumes in 2010.
Heaters aren’t the only household appliance that you should get serviced regularly – faulty or not. Carbon monoxide is found in fumes where fuel is burned. Things like wood stoves, gas ovens, gas cooktops, dryers, fireplaces, exhaust fumes and furnaces can all produce carbon monoxide. The solution? A carbon monoxide detector (more on these later) is a good idea. You should also call out the experts at the start of winter when you rely on heaters, dryers and fireplaces the most and get them to check your appliances and vents to ensure they’re safe to use.
Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning aren’t too dissimilar to flu. They include a constant feeling of tiredness, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and feeling overly weak. Now, having one (or all) of the above might not mean you have been poisoned, but it’s worth knowing the signs just in case. And, if you’re concerned that you may have been exposed to carbon monoxide, mention it to your GP straight away.
Carbon monoxide is known as a “silent killer” for a reason. You won’t be able to see or smell any toxic fumes. But you can still protect your family from it with a simple, affordable alarm that can detect early exposure within your home. An alarm can warn you about any carbon monoxide fumes being emitted from heaters, cookers, blocked chimneys and nearby vehicles taking away the worry. Try Quell Carbon Monoxide Digital Display Alarm, $39.