26 September 2023

Health warns of dangers from indoor fires

Start the conversation

As winter edges closer to Victoria, the Department of Health has joined forces with the State’s safety regulators to warn people about the potentially fatal threat of carbon monoxide poisoning from unserviced open flued gas space heaters.

Teaming up with Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) and the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) to issue the warning, Deputy Chief Health Officer, Environment, Angie Bone said symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning could be mistaken for flu-like illness or food poisoning.

“Any gas appliance, gas heater, wood heater or fire-place, equipment or items powered with a gas or petroleum engine, have the potential to leak carbon monoxide, especially if they are used incorrectly or are faulty,” Dr Bone said.

“This can cause a health risk when they are used in enclosed or poorly ventilated areas, such as inside the home or in a caravan,” she said.

“All people and pets exposed to carbon monoxide can experience carbon monoxide poisoning.”

Dr Bone said children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, older people and those with chronic illnesses were at increased risk of severe health impacts from carbon monoxide poisoning.

She said symptoms may include headache, nausea and vomiting, skin flushing, muscle pain, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, coordination difficulties, confusion, or chest pain.

Commissioner and Chairperson of ESV, Marnie Williams said an ESV survey of 1,400 Victorians, conducted this year, found only 63 per cent of respondents were aware that heaters needed to be serviced at least once every two years by a licensed gasfitter.

State Building Surveyor at VBA, Andrew Cialini said opened flued gas space heaters were designed to interact with air in the home, “drawing air from the room for combustion”.

“Unserviced and faulty units can result in carbon monoxide leakage created by negative pressure, which occurs when operating bathroom exhaust fans or kitchen rangehoods in houses with little-to-no ventilation,” Mr Cialini said.

“Carbon monoxide is known as the ‘silent killer’ because it is colourless and odourless, so it is important for the community to understand the risk, and plumbers installing or servicing gas heaters to take the opportunity to educate consumers when the opportunity presents.”

He said people could check their gasfitter was properly licensed by entering the gasfitter’s details on VBA’s Find a Practitioner tool.

Further information on gas heater safety can be accessed at this PS News link and VBA’s Find a Practitioner tool at this link.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.