The poison control centre records at least 1,250 victims of carbon monoxide poisoning every year, including 26 who died in 2013, and the first cold wave of the year last week has already resulted in several casualties, according to a press release on Tuesday from the Directorate General Security and Prevention section of SPF Interieur (Belgian Home Office). It urges people to check whether heating appliances have the necessary air vents. CO or carbon monoxide results from poor combustion of gas, coal, fuel oil, oil, or wood, clarifies the press release. It is commonly called the “silent killer” because it is both invisible and odourless. It is mainly found near faulty water-heaters in bathrooms, and individual heaters in living rooms or bedrooms.
According to a 2013 report by the poison control centre, 75% of accidents took place between November and March. Within the home, half of all CO accidents happen in lounges or bedrooms, usually caused by a free-standing heating appliance, and one third happen in bathrooms, very often because of a gas-fired water-heater. The main causes for the accidents are lack of ventilation, faulty appliances, and ineffective smoke extraction systems.
Heating appliances must be regularly serviced, and chimneys swept by professionals. “Anyone using a gas water-heater (boiler) in their bathroom must be extremely vigilant”, adds the press release. “The flame must remain blue. A yellow or orange flame signals poor gas combustion and a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.”