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How To Avoid This Silent Killer

It's colourless, it's odourless and it can kill.

Carbon monoxide has been referred to as the 'silent killer' because you can't smell it and it is deadly.

Increased warnings have been issued over the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from faulty home appliances.

There have already been a number of cases this month where people have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide
There have already been a number of cases of poisoning this month alone. Photo: Getty Images

On June 3, a family of five were taken to hospital after using a charcoal burner to keep their Cabramatta home warm.

READ MORE: Family Hospitalised With Suspected Carbon Monoxide Poisoning After Using Charcoal Burner

On June 10, seven people, including five children and two adults were rushed to hospital after being poisoned by the gas. Early investigations into the gas leak suggest a gas-based pool heater may be to blame.

READ MORE: Family Of Seven Suffer Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Inside Home

In one of the most famous cases in Australian history, Vanessa and Scott Robinson lost their two young boys Chase and Tyler to carbon monoxide poisoning in 2010. Vanessa had put a gas heater on for her sons, eight and six at the time, and woke to find them dead as a result of a fault in the heater.

Following the tragedy, Vanessa founded the Chase and Tyler Foundation to raise awareness for and eliminate accidental carbon monoxide poisoning throughout Australia.

Chase and Tyler Foundation
Chase and Tyler. Photo: Facebook/ The Chase and Tyler Foundation.
What Are The Symptoms Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

There are a number of symptoms associated with carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is dangerous as red blood cells absorb the gas faster than they do oxygen.

Symptoms of poisoning can include headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness and fatigue. Other more serious symptoms can be visual problems, pains in the chest or stomach, disorientation, erratic behaviour, collapse and loss of consciousness.

Damage to the nervous system or brain, cardiac trauma and even death can also result from being exposed to the gas.

Carbon monoxide can have long-term effects on a person's health. These can include memory loss, instability when walking, mental disorientation and development of learning disabilities.

The gas is odourless and colourless.

Carbon Monoxide
Carbon Monoxide is odourless and colourless, it can be difficult to detect a leak. Photo: Getty Images.
How Can You Detect A Carbon Monoxide Leak?

Carbon monoxide can leak from gas heaters or any other fuel-burning appliance. These can include wood, charcoal or gas barbeques and fireplaces, wood stoves or chemical heaters. Gas or kerosene cookers and heaters are also a source of carbon monoxide as well as diesel or petrol-powered appliances like generators, pumps, chainsaws, leaf blowers and welders.

Even the smoke from cigarettes contains carbon monoxide.

There are a number of indicators that could signal a carbon monoxide leak. Look for sooting, yellow or brown staining on or around walls, ceilings or below the appliance or peeling paint above the appliance. Sooting flecks on the ground and underneath appliance could also be a sign, as well as excessive condensation in the room where the appliance is installed.

How Can Aussies Protect Themselves Against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Ensuring gas or other fuel-burning devices are serviced at least once every two years is essential to avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning. Organising a registered or licensed gas fitter is one reliable way to achieve this.

Carbon Monoxide
Hiring a trained professional to check your appliances is recommended. Photo: Getty Images.

Other recommendations include avoiding burning charcoal inside homes and other enclosed spaces and not using gas operated heaters in closed rooms, especially while you're sleeping.

It's also advised not to leave a car running while in the garage. Updating and maintaining all kitchen appliances regularly is recommended.

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au