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Carbon monoxide exposure in homes is a risk – here’s how to protect yourself

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12.07.2018

Winter is a good time to remind ourselves of the potential risk of carbon monoxide exposure from faulty or unflued gas heaters or other gas devices.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas arising from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. In a domestic setting, sources of CO include gas heaters (with and without flues), gas stoves, wood or charcoal heaters, tobacco smoke, and infiltration of car exhaust from attached garages.

Emissions in enclosed and unventilated domestic spaces can, and do, cause fatalities and hospitalisations.

CO is the most abundant pollutant (measured by mass) in the atmosphere.

Many heaters we use to heat our homes work by combusting gas. When gas is burned it releases carbon monoxide, as well as other gases, and if these are not flued to the outside of the home (a pipe or other mechanism to exhaust the smoke and gases to the outside of the home) or if the heater is faulty or old, and there is insufficient ventilation of the home, these gases can build up inside the home to hazardous levels.

When present at elevated levels, CO can diffuse rapidly into blood, binding with haemoglobin to form “carboxyhaemoglobin”. This reduces the capacity of blood to carry oxygen, which........

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