Rawalpindi : A severe cold wave has hit various parts of the country including twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi after which majority of people have started using heating systems to keep rooms warm that according to experts may prove to be deadly and cause serious complications in case of little carelessness.
Every year in winter, a number of people and families suffocate to death or get hospitalised due to health hazards caused by heating systems as almost all types of fuels including Sui gas, liquefied petroleum and natural gas, coal and wood produce carbon dioxide and consume oxygen from the atmosphere while burning.
Most of the people are unaware of the preventive measures that must be taken to avoid complications and deaths caused by the heating systems when used improperly, said Medical Superintendent at Benazir Bhutto Hospital Dr. Tariq Masood Niazi while talking to ‘The News’. He added that few deaths and cases with serious complications have already been reported from various areas of the country particularly the hilly areas due to improper use of heating systems.
He said there is a need to create awareness among people that using heating systems including gas heaters and burning of coal and wood without taking precautionary measures may be deadly. Using heating systems sensibly and properly, a number of deaths and complications can be avoided, he said.
It is observed that most of the people use heating systems including gas heaters extensively in evenings and nights while a number of persons die every year in the country due to keeping the gas heaters on for the whole night during sleep or by keeping rooms closed while using coal or wood as fuel.
All sorts of fuels produce carbon dioxide consuming oxygen from the atmosphere while burning and the burning causes lowering of oxygen level in the room if it is not properly ventilated, said Associate Professor of Chemistry at F.G Sir Syed College Muhammad Tariq.
He explained that when the oxygen level lowers in a room, the fuels start producing carbon mono oxide in the atmosphere which results in production of carboxy haemoglobin in the lungs cutting of the supply of oxygen to haemoglobin in the blood required for the process of respiration. The phenomenon causes suffocation which may lead to the unconsciousness and subsequently to death, he said.
It is important that carbon monoxide is invisible, odourless, colourless and tasteless gas, so is difficult to detect. It is highly poisonous and deprives the body of oxygen. An individual is rendered completely helpless without warning and without feeling that he is falling prey to carbon mono oxide and thus one may become unconscious during sleep and ultimately die, said Dr. Niazi.
Experts say that poisoning can also result due to leakage of gas accidentally while using gas heaters in closed rooms. People using coal as a source of heating should keep ventilation of rooms in a very good condition to avoid carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning while users of gas heaters should keep water in rooms to maintain atmosphere humid. According to Dr. Sohail, a medical specialist, patients with heart disease, asthmatics, pregnant ladies, children and elderly may suffer severe complications as unsafe level of carbon mono oxide in a room causes chest pain or angina in patients with heart disease while smokers, young children, unborn babies and the elderly are at higher risk.
It is important that exposure to high levels of carbon mono oxide can cause carbon mono oxide poisoning whose symptoms include tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, nausea, muscle weakness, confusion etc while exposure to extremely high levels of carbon mono oxide can result in death, he said. Experts say that suspected case of gas poisoning should be removed immediately from the source to the fresh air and evacuated to the nearest hospital. Some simple safety measures must be taken while using heating systems. The room needs to be well ventilated. Keep internal doors and at least one window open to allow fresh air to enter the room. Check that room vents are not blocked. Never keep gas heaters on while to bed. Ensure that gas supply is disconnected from main supply line. Even the ‘pilot’ of the gas heater should not be kept ‘On’. If the gas leakage is suspected, it should be detected by gas smell or by sound of escaping gas and not by the application of naked lights.
Experts say if gas leakage is suspected, open doors and windows to ventilate the area, turn off all consumer safety shut off valves, never use any electrical switch to turn lights or fan on and report immediately to gas authorities.
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