Since September 2022, according to the data of the French poison control centres, over 70 people have been poisoned after they tried to heat their home with appliances not intended for that purpose such as barbecues, coal-fired stoves, power generators or braziers. More than half were hospitalised, some of whom had to be treated with hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
When placed outdoors, these appliances emit a small amount of carbon monoxide that is dispersed in the air. However, when they are kept in closed spaces, the concentration of carbon monoxide in indoor air can rapidly increase and be dangerous for any people and animals in the vicinity.
An odourless and highly toxic gas
When carbon monoxide is emitted in a room, it cannot be seen or smelled. The first signs of poisoning are not specific to carbon monoxide and include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Carbon monoxide poisoning should be suspected when several people in the same household experience these symptoms.
Carbon monoxide is a deadly gas. A poisoned individual can rapidly become unconscious and fall into a coma. Treatment consists in administering oxygen, in a hyperbaric chamber in the most serious cases.
Essential practices to avoid the risk of poisoning
- Regularly aerate your home;
- To heat the inside of your home, never use appliances that are not intended for that purpose, such as power generators, braziers, barbecues, barbecue embers or coals, coal-fired stoves, or kitchen stoves. Do not use mobile auxiliary heaters continuously;
- Have your ducts and chimneys cleaned at least once a year;
- Before the cold weather begins, have your systems (boiler, chimneys, water heater, pellet & wood stoves, etc.) checked by a qualified professional.
What should you do if you suspect you or someone else may have been poisoned with carbon monoxide?
- Immediately aerate the room, shut off any fuel-burning appliances if possible, and evacuate the premises.
- If there are any signs of a life-threatening emergency (loss of consciousness, etc.), dial 15 (in France), 112 or 114 (for the deaf and hard of hearing).
For all other symptoms, call a poison control centre. The French poison control centres can be reached 24/7.