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Maidstone household suffers carbon monoxide poisoning

ESV is investigating an incident at Maidstone involving a gas heater that resulted in carbon monoxide poisoning of four people, including a baby.

The four people have since been discharged from hospital.

Last Monday evening, one of the group called 000 after recognising the symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

ESV’s initial investigation found that the heater had been leaking CO. The heater was open-flued and was a ducted system, with the main unit in a cupboard.

The incident is a timely reminder that any gas heater should be serviced at least once every two years – not just old-fashioned space heaters built into a wall but all gas heaters irrespective of make or model. The service should be carried out by a qualified gasfitter with Type A Gas Appliances endorsement.

Servicing is especially important for open-flued heaters which are very sensitive to the environment they are operating in. ESV has a Safety Alert in place for both the Vulcan Heritage and the Pyrox Heritage open-flue space heaters which have been found to spill too much CO in certain circumstances. A Heritage brand heater is connected to the death of a Greensborough woman last year, which is currently unde  r investigation by the Coroner.

Carbon monoxide can be a silent killer, you cannot see it, taste nor smell it. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be similar to flu with dizziness, drowsiness, nausea and headaches.

Be particularly alert to more than one person in the household complaining of the same symptoms at the same time.

ESV investigation into the Maidstone incident involves both MFB and VBA. So far we have determined that there was negative pressure in the house, meaning carbon monoxide was being drawn into the house instead of escaping out the flue.

People with an open-flue heater

  • If you have alternative forms of heating use those – especially if you haven’t used your gas heater for a while.
  • At the next opportunity replace the open flued heater with a closed or room seal gas heater or split system.
  • Continue to service your heater at least once every two years
  • Be aware of the symptoms

The best way to check whether your heater is open-flue is to ring the manufacturer or check with your gasfitter as part of your next service.