The police deal with a number of cases of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning during the cold season each year. Most recently, police officers of the Celje Police Directorate and Ljubljana Police Station were called to deal with cases in the past few days, which thankfully did not end tragically. Poisoning occurs most frequently because of improper handling of heating appliances or their improper maintenance.

Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas, particularly dangerous because it cannot be detected by human senses, even in high concentrations. It is without colour, taste and smell and does not irritate skin, eyes or cause irritation in breathing. Even a very small quantity of this gas in the air (0.4% by volume) may be life-threatening.

To prevent accidents with gas burners and other heating appliances, it is very important to maintain them properly and to adequately ventilate spaces in which they are used.

Carbon monoxide is produced when there is insufficient oxygen in using gas burners and other heating appliances, and when solid, liquid and gas fuel furnaces are used for cooking and for heating premises.

Mild poisoning causes a feeling of unease, dizziness, headache, tiredness and weakness. In serious cases, confusion, vomiting, sight disturbance, disorders in consciousness (up to coma), heart rhythm disturbances and breathing difficulties can occur. Children, older people and patients are generally more sensitive to very low concentrations of CO in the air.

The space where a heating appliance is used should be of adequate size must be well ventilated. Windows should be left slightly open during the operation of the burner. Police advice is that spaces where heating appliances are used should be adequately ventilated with sufficient a draught several times a day.

Be careful when installing gasoline generators; you must provide for the discharge of the exhaust gases in order to prevent them venting to enclosed spaces.