Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning from unsafe indoor heating this winter

NSW Health is reminding people to be safe in how they heat their home and not bring outdoor heaters or BBQs inside due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dr Richard Broome, Director of Environmental Health at NSW Health, said over the past few weeks, calls to the Poisons Information Centre related to carbon monoxide poisonings have increased.  

“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.”

When carbon monoxide is breathed in, it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain and other vital organs of oxygen which can cause unconsciousness and – sadly in some instances – death.

Dr Broome urged people to always use outdoor gas heaters, BBQs and portable generators in well-ventilated outdoor spaces only, and ensure nothing that is intended for outdoor use is brought into the home or garage. 

If you have a gas heater that is approved for indoor use, it’s important to have it serviced regularly by a licenced gas fitter.”

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Prolonged exposure can have very serious consequences. 

To minimise your exposure to carbon monoxide this winter you should:

  • ensure proper installation of heater and gas supply
  • make sure that ventilation of the heating space is adequate
  • avoid using portable generators inside your home or garage, even if the doors and windows are open

If you suspect someone has been exposed to carbon monoxide, contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26. More information about how to reduce risk and exposure this winter is available online here.