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Safety reminder on unflued gas heaters

5 May 2005

Safety reminder on unflued gas heaters

The Ministry of Health is reminding people to make sure they're using unflued gas heaters safely, following a public health warning in Australia on the possible harmful effects of using the heaters.

The Australian-based Environmental Health (enHealth) Council, of which New Zealand is a member, has produced a brochure warning people of the health risks associated with indoor air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide that these heaters produce. It also advises the heaters produce water vapour that can effect your health by increasing the spread of mould and dust mites.

This comes after an Australian study found that the air pollutants pose a significant health risk to children, pregnant women, elderly people and those with asthma or heart disease if they build up in a room. High levels can be dangerous for everyone. Further research is also being carried out in New Zealand.

Unflued gas heaters burn gas to produce heat and have no flue or chimney to transfer combustion products outside.

Director of Public Health Dr Mark Jacobs says: "The warning should not be taken lightly. Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide are both difficult to detect through smell or taste, but exposure to high levels of these pollutants can be harmful."

"People with asthma are particularly susceptible to the effects of nitrogen dioxide and should minimise exposure to this type of heater. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can affect anyone, resulting in tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, confusion and in extreme cases death." Dr Jacobs says to reduce exposure to the air pollutants, people who use unflued gas heaters should take the following steps:

ensure the room that the heater is in is well ventilated by having internal doors open and at least one window to allow fresh air to enter the room; don't use an unflued gas heater in a room where people sleep, in a bathroom, caravan or tent; only use an unflued gas heater for short periods of time; make sure your heater is installed by a licensed gas fitter; read and follow any instructions for the use of the appliance;

don't do any maintenance on an unflued gas heater yourself make sure your unflued gas heater is serviced by a qualified person at least once a year. Heaters that are not in good working order can release higher amounts of pollutants into the home.

The enHealth Council has advised people who want to buy a heater for their home to consider flued gas, central or electric heaters or reverse cycle air conditioners.

A copy of the Unflued Gas Heaters & Your Health Brochure is available on the enHealth Council website http://enhealth.nphp.gov.au/

ENDS

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