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December 15, 2019

Use of heating systems without precautionary measures can be risky


December 15, 2019

Rawalpindi : The first rain spell of winter started two days back in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi and the snowfall on the adjoining mountainous ranges turned the weather extremely cold in the region after which majority of people have started using various fuel based heating systems to keep rooms and offices warm.

As the severe cold wave hits the region, people started using coal, wood or gas heaters in case Sui gas is available to keep rooms warm. A number of shopkeepers and residents in town arranged locally prepared stoves (angeethis) to burn coal for keeping themselves warm even at daytime.

The heating systems are not harmful but according to health experts, if proper preventive measures are not taken, all types of heating systems may prove to be deadly as in every winter, a number of individuals and families suffocate to death in the country due to carbon monoxide poisoning or other accidents involving heating systems.

Unfortunately majority of people either is unaware of the threats, the fuel based systems may pose or they do not take necessary preventive measures seriously. The heating systems may cause life-threatening conditions and even death if used improperly, said a senior health official at Holy Family Hospital, Dr. Tariq Masood Niazi.

He, like many other health experts believes that people must be aware of the fact that all sorts of fuels including Sui gas, coal and wood while burning produce carbon dioxide and consume oxygen from the atmosphere that causes lowering of oxygen level in the room if not properly ventilated. When the oxygen level lowers, 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.

Carbon monoxide is invisible, odourless, colourless and tasteless gas and so it is hardly possible to detect. It is highly poisonous and deprives the body of oxygen. As a room is filled with carbon monoxide, the individuals inside are rendered completely helpless without warning and without feeling that they have fallen prey carbon mono oxide poisoning and thus may become unconscious during sleep and ultimately die.

An individual or a family may suffer from gas poisoning due to leakage of gas accidentally while using gas heaters in closed rooms. Experts say that people using coal, wood or gas 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 must keep water in rooms in a glass or pot to maintain atmosphere humid.

Studies reveal that some people are more susceptible than others to suffer harmful effects of heating systems such as heart disease patients, asthmatics, pregnant women, infants, children and elderly.

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 particularly at higher risk of severe complications in case of lowering of oxygen level in a closed room. Exposure to high levels of carbon mono oxide causes carbon mono oxide poisoning. Its 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.

Experts say that to avoid health threats caused by heating system, 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. If using gas heaters, never keep them 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.

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