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Household safety 101: Avoiding hazardous carbon monoxide
Odourless, colourless and toxic – carbon monoxide (CO) gas can be lethal. It’s produced when fuel is burned, which means you might be using appliances that produce CO every single day.
We identify some common causes of CO build-up and outline steps you can take to help keep your family safe.
Get to know the CO culprits
When CO is produced in small amounts in ventilated environments, it generally doesn’t cause any issues. But when it’s allowed to build up in enclosed spaces, it can cause those breathing it in, both people and animals, to become very sick.
You probably have at least one appliance or device in your household that could be responsible for a build-up of CO.
Common sources of carbon monoxide include:
- BBQs: Wood, charcoal or gas.
- Fireplaces: Wood, charcoal or gas.
- Outdoor heaters: Gas or kerosene.
- Flued gas heaters: Only under certain conditions.
- Generators: Petrol or diesel.
- Pumps, chainsaws, welders and blowers: Petrol or diesel.
Know what symptoms to look out for
Excessive amounts of CO are dangerous to anyone, but this is especially true for infants, the elderly and those with existing heart or respiratory issues. This is because CO poisoning symptoms are hard to detect and can easily be confused with fatigue or simply having a cold.
Often, victims won’t realise that something more is going on until it’s too late.
Common carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms to look out for include:
- Loss of memory.
Once CO takes hold, the poisoning can’t easily be treated. Long-term effects can include loss of consciousness, brain damage, heart damage and even death.
Prevention, ventilation and monitoring
Thankfully there are steps you can take to limit CO build-up. When you’re looking to keep your family safe, think prevention, ventilation and monitoring.
Prevention means having your heating systems professionally checked each year. This involves making sure your heating system, water heater and any other appliances that are burning gas, oil or coal are serviced and certified.
When you’re using an appliance that produces CO, ventilation is key. For example, when using your fireplace, make sure the chimney isn’t blocked. If you need to use a cooker, BBQ, gas heater or generator, operate it in a properly ventilated area. Don’t use this equipment inside, even if it’s raining.
If you’re in an emergency situation and need to remain indoors, such as taking shelter from a storm, it’s crucial to think about ventilation. Sadly, in January 2011, while sheltering from Cyclone Yasi, a Queenslander died from suspected CO poisoning caused by the fumes from his generator.
Meet Nest Protect smoke + CO alarm
Nest Protect smoke + CO alarm is a smoke alarm that thinks, speaks and alerts your phone. Nest Protect looks for fast burning fires, slow smoldering fires and invisible CO. It speaks up to tell you what the problem is and where it is. It can also give you a friendly heads-up before it has to sound the alarm and you can hush it with your phone.
In case you’re not home, Nest Protect alerts your phone when the alarm goes off or if the batteries run low. It also gives you greater peace of mind by testing itself over 400 times a day and showing you everything is working with a quick green glow when you turn off the lights.
For the night owls, it even lights your way in the middle of the night. And because it can be silenced through your phone, you’ll never have to wave another tea towel again.
iSelect General Pty Limited ABN 90 131 798 126, AFS Licence Number: 334115. Any advice provided by iSelect is of a general nature and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You need to consider the appropriateness of any information or general advice we give you, having regard to your personal situation, before acting on our advice or purchasing any product. You should consider iSelect’s Financial Services Guide which provides information about our services and your rights as a client of iSelect. We receive commission for each product sold.