Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is the first cause of accidental death by toxic substance in France.
This accidental poisoning occurs most of the time in a domestic setting, especially in winter.
Carbon monoxide: what is it?
Carbon monoxide is a molecule composed of a carbon atom (C) and an oxygen atom (O).
Colourless, odorless and non-irritating, carbon monoxide (CO) is an asphyxiant gas that is difficult for humans to detect since it does not irritate the eyes or the respiratory tract.
Formed from incomplete combustion, as is the case inside old and poorly maintained heating appliances, carbon monoxide can spread very quickly in the home when you burn different materials:
- fuel oil
Electrical appliances, such as radiators, cannot produce carbon monoxide, but malfunctioning heating or cooking appliances can produce it:
- Boiler, auxiliary oil heating, water heater
- Gas stove, charcoal barbecue, oil and gas stove
- Insert, wood-burning fireplace, decorative ethanol fireplace
- Car, motorcycle, generator
Carbon monoxide poisoning: how does it happen?
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs after breathing the gas in a room that is not sufficiently ventilated. The carbon monoxide (CO) produced during the combustion of organic matter, will graft onto the red blood cells, preventing a sufficient supply of oxygen to the body. This sometimes causes behavioral disorders, muscle paralysis, coma or death by asphyxiation in less than an hour.
How to react to carbon monoxide poisoning?
Headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, mental confusion, malaise, dizziness… are alarming symptoms. It could be carbon monoxide poisoning.
In the presence of these signs,
- Immediately open the doors and windows to ventilate the premises
- Stops combustion appliances, stops heating, cooking, etc.
- Evacuate the area as soon as possible
- Call for help or emergency
112 : the emergency number from a mobile (single European emergency number)
114 : help for the deaf and hard of hearing (sms/fax)
18 : firefighters
15 : Samu
If necessary, you can call the Poison Control Center in your city.
The opinion of the firefighters or a heating professional is necessary to be able to return to the premises.
How to limit the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning?
No one is immune to carbon monoxide poisoning. To limit the risks, here are some simple actions to adopt:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector. This is a small box to be fixed in your student housing to analyze the ambient air. If it detects detects too high a concentration of carbon monoxide, it emits a ringtone to alert the occupants.
- Before each winter, always remember to have your heating and hot water installations checked and maintained: boilers, water heaters, internal combustion engines, chimneys, as well as air ducts and stoves.
- The flues must be properly connected. The chimney must be well swept so that it is not obstructed. It is imperative that this verification be carried out by a qualified professional;
- Ventilate your interior for just 10 minutes a day, even in winter when it’s cold;
- Never leave parts caulked;
- Take care to keep the ventilation systems in good working order and above all never block the air inlets and outlets (grids or air vents);
- Take care not to operate the auxiliary heaters continuously;