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Warning of risk of carbon monoxide poisoning after floods

5 January 2016

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Flooding could lead to an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in practices and other buildings, the Public Health Agency has warned.

When clearing up after flooding, there is “a serious danger” of carbon monoxide (CO) fumes from the use of generators to dry out buildings.

CO is produced when fossil fuels such as gas, coal, oil, wood, petrol and paraffin burn without enough oxygen, and is a colourless, tasteless, odourless gas that is non-irritating, and can be very hard to detect.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal and can also cause long-term health problems if victims are exposed to low doses over a long period of time,” the agency warned. The signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include: headaches, nausea and vomiting, exhaustion, drowsiness, dizziness and light-headedness, ‘flu like’ symptom, palpitations, chest pain and losing consciousness.

The agency, responsible for improving health in Northern Ireland, explained that “during adverse weather or after flooding people across Northern Ireland may be turning up the heating and lighting fires, increasing their risk of CO poisoning.

“If temperatures fall sufficiently gas flues can get blocked by ice or snow, causing an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.”

If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, all appliances should be turned off, everyone should go outside, and appliances should not be used again until they have been serviced by a registered engineer.