'Big concern': Aussies warned over deadly act as temperatures plummet

·Associate News Editor
·2-min read

Health authorities are warning Australians to make sure attempts to warm up their homes aren't putting lives at risk.

As temperatures plummeted at the start of June thanks to an unwanted cold snap across large parts of the country, many have been doing what they can to keep themselves warm.

However Dr Richard Broome, Director of Environmental Health at NSW Health, said the freezing conditions have coincided with a spike in calls to the Poisons Information Centre related to carbon monoxide poisonings.

One of the main reasons is a lack of education on heaters that cannot be used in the home.

Outdoor heaters cannot be used indoors. Source: Getty
Outdoor heaters cannot be used indoors. Source: Getty

“Burning charcoal, BBQ coal outdoor heaters, and portable backup generators are some of the biggest concerns,” Dr Broome said.

“The carbon monoxide, which is released from outdoor heaters and BBQs, is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas which means you can’t know that you’re breathing it in.”

Even heaters designed for inside can pose a risk if the area they are used is small and not ventilated, such as a single bedroom with the door and windows closed.

Sydneysiders have had a harsh welcome to winter. Source: Getty
Sydneysiders have had a harsh welcome to winter. Source: Getty

Anything that combusts — including fire places and burning coals —that doesn’t allow the resulting gases to be emitted outside of the contained space, pose a risk, Dr Christine Cowie, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of NSW’s Centre for Air Quality and Health Research and Evaluation previously told Yahoo News Australia.

“The problem with carbon monoxide is that it is an odourless gas,” she said.

“There is no advanced warning.”

When the gas does take control of the body, symptoms, such as headaches, tiredness and vomiting, are often confused with the flu, Dr Cowie explained, which can in turn prove fatal if not acted on immediately.

NSW Health said anyone who suspects carbon monoxide poisoning should contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

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