Winter warning for gas heater use
West Australians could be putting their own and their family’s health at risk this winter when they switch on their gas heaters for the first time.
Carbon monoxide gas leaking from faulty heaters can be fatal as was the tragic and alarming case of Chase and Tyler Robinson, aged eight and six, who died in 2010 in their home in Shepparton, Victoria.
This week, April 30 – May 6 marks the annual Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week set up in the wake of that tragedy with WA’s Director of Energy Safety Ken Bowron using it to remind householders to have their gas heaters serviced before using them this winter.
“The most recent case of carbon monoxide poisoning in WA caused by a household gas heater was in August 2016. Fortunately the victim made a recovery after medical attention,” he said.
“With heaters being idle for many months over summer it is important to have them serviced by a licensed gas fitter or service agent to make sure it is working properly.
“Air filters, air ways, fans and burners can become blocked by lint and dust, especially if the heater has been stored in a garden shed or similar over the summer which can lead to overheating and burner problems and producing carbon monoxide gas.”
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, poisonous gas which may be produced by faulty, poorly maintained or misused gas appliances.
People may not be aware that they have been exposed to potentially fatal levels of carbon monoxide until the symptoms of poisoning become severe.
Exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide may result in a person experiencing headaches, weakness, fatigue and nausea and can mimic flu like symptoms and can be often misdiagnosed.
Higher level and prolonged exposure symptoms could include severe headache, dizziness, rapid or irregular heartbeat, vomiting, seizures and collapse. In extreme cases this can lead to coma and death.
The Building and Energy Division recommends the following tips:
- Check the service sticker on the appliance, is it due for a service? Call a licensed gas fitter or service agent.
- When using a flueless heater, make sure that the room is adequately ventilated.
- Make sure that permanent ventilation openings are not blocked.
- Check flues are not blocked or obstructed.
- Make sure that roof insulation is not obstructing a heater in the roof space.
- Check the outer case of your space heater. Is it discoloured? Discolouration is an indication of a faulty flue and that it is time to have it checked by a licensed gas fitter.
- If you have difficulty re-lighting the gas appliance, call a licensed gas fitter or service agent.
- Check the heater - a yellow flame can indicate that your heater is not running correctly and needs servicing.
For more information on the servicing of gas appliances visit: https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/building-and-energy/gas-appliances.
If anyone suspects they have inhaled carbon monoxide or have symptoms of its poisoning they should seek medical attention immediately as well as seeking fresh air.
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