Carbon monoxide


It is poisonous, invisible, odourless, fatally dangerous

Statistics raise doubts. Despite warnings about the danger of asphyxiation with the carbon monoxide, the invisible killer gathers the fatal harvest every year. Obviously not everybody realise that in a colder season when flats’ heating is essential, we must care not only about heating but also our and our relatives’ safety.

Wrongly understood savings

The aforementioned statistics for only one district – the Silesian district during a few last years, and strictly considering winters, look as follows. In the so-called heating season 2009/2010 the fire brigade has registered 1160 asphyxiations with the carbon monoxide here,32 people died; there were 1301 cases like these the following year, which killed 21 fatalities; and the last winter – there were 1380 such cases and 18 fatal asphyxiations with carbon monoxide.

A few years ago there was information in Poland about the death of four-year-old triplets from Elbląg, who were asphyxiated together with their grandmother. Firemen stated in the place of the tragedy that the flat had been heated with an old oven and air vents had been covered with newspapers and adhesive tape.

A tragic symptom of the recent years have been fatalasphyxiations with the carbon monoxide during bath in a bath or a shower. Firemen are called to this kind of accidents in all regions of Poland, mostly between 1 October and 31 March. The mechanism is simple. Looking for the savings of heating energy in flats, we exchange windows and doors into the new ones, which are tighter, we liquidate balustrade grates in kitchens and other places of ‘the warmth escape’. During the intensive work of gas stove, for example during warming up water for bath in a bathroom, the carbon monoxide may gather in an amount dangerous for life. If we also have tightly-closed windows, and we cover air vents in the bathroom doors and ventilation ducts – a disaster can happen.

Captain Paweł Liszaj, a press spokesman of the City Chief of the National Fire Brigade in Częstochowa, reminds about the basic rule: - the more fresh air comes inside, the more fumes will go outside. So, first of all, a constant flow of fresh air to a fireplace should be assured, as well as free outflow of fumes. It concerns both the gas stove and gas oven as well as coal stove.

To get prepared for winter

Firemen suggest that utilizers of flats should check any types of stoves used for heating their flats before the autumn-winter season, whether the stove or heating installation are good or whether a constant inflow of fresh air is provided or whether the stove is exploited according to the instruction. The reminder is obvious, although it is not always followed: any works like – installation, exchange, repair of the stove can be done only by authorized people. It is really not worth having this work done by an accidental ‘handymen’. Ventilation and chimney installation should be regularly checked and cleaned. We should check how ventilation functions in a flat, if we have changed windows and doors. Rooms where there are stoves, should be regularly ventilated. It is good when windows in a flat are in a position providing micro-ventilation. It is also worth remembering that a regulation forbidding covering air vents in bathroom doors and ventilation ducts was not made up to make our life difficult but for the sake of our safety.

There is also a proposal to think about the purchase of sensors of carbon monoxide, which will warn us against a danger on time.

Firemen warn

The carbon monoxide is called an insidious polluter because it is colourless and odourless and in a high intensity it kills immediately because it blends with haemoglobin 200 times more quickly than oxygen. In the statistics there are more reasons for asphyxiation. No wonder that firemen, knowing that asphyxiations with the carbon monoxide are usually the result of human carelessness, they are conducting a big education action. – This action lasts the whole year, with a particular intensity in the autumn-winter season – says captain Paweł Liszaj. – Prophylactic actions are mainly sending information on this issue to city offices and communities, dwelling cooperatives and other administrative units. It is also giving away fliers about safe utilizing heating devices, information online and in mass media, it is also education on this issue during meetings at schools, and even in nurseries. We are cooperating with inspection units of building supervision. This year the City Chief of Fire Brigade in Częstochowa and the District Building Supervision Inspector made a common appeal to inhabitants. We hope that it will turn out effective.


"Niedziela" 43/2012

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: