Heaters and suffocation in Briquette Fire
Briquette Fire Burning

It gets cold in the upper parts of Nepal and people use heaters to warm up. This is good to protect from harshness of cold but there is a dark side as well. We regularly get news of people dying due to suffocation in winter. Use of heaters and suffocation is a common issue. Most people who don’t have electric heaters or mainly people in rural areas use wood or coal fire. They burn the fire and leave it in to warm up the room. Sometimes they don’t have good ventilation or open windows and thus room habitants suffocate.

First of all, fire takes up oxygen in a closed room to burn. Next, the fire produces carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide which are deadly. This combination causes people to die in their sleep. When people use wood or coal they get alarmed by smoke and they don’t put in their room. However these days we have smokeless briquettes. These are a silent killer if used in a room with bad ventilation.

Many times the reason for death is that people using bio briquette to heat the room and leaving it burning for the night. There is no visible and disturbing smoke. So people forget and enjoy the warmth in a closed room. Slowly oxygen decreases and poisonous gases accumulate which faints people in the room and kills them. Sometimes objects in room catch fire and people die from such fire as well.

Heaters and Hazards

The temperature in winter in Nepal can go below up 0º Celsius. Nepal also has a severe problem with electricity and fuel crisis. So people can’t use electric heaters and gas heaters that much. Due to situations and conditions, people are forced to use fire as heaters. Thus many accidents happen. The main cause of people dying due to these fire and heaters is Carbon monoxide(CO) poisoning.

Bio Briquettes do offer many pros over normal coal. They burn better, they are easily available and don’t produce much smoke. There is a small misconception among many people. We can’t blame normal people for that. People know that smoke from coal or wood and other organic materials are harmful. So they started using briquette now instead of coal and wood. The briquettes don’t produce visible smoke so people think that it is smokeless and harmless.

But there is a hidden very poisonous gas in it which works in shadows. This poisonous gas is known as Carbon monoxide(CO). There is very less smoke in these so the problem of soot is less. But whatever we burn, either it is coal, wood or briquette there will be CO. The thing doesn’t end here because using gas heaters for a long term can also cause harmful results.

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Carbon Monoxide Model
Carbon Monoxide Model Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

CO Poisoning and Prevention

There is CO in our environment due to many sources. There is a limit and after that, it is dangerous for humans. At around 100 ppm people start getting a headache. At 12800 ppm of exposure, it can be lethal and the victim can die due to poisoning. This type of consumption takes place when people use it in their rooms for a very long time, For example like for a whole night or leakage in vehicles, etc.

CO Detector Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
CO Detector Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Using gas heaters or the things that burn is very lethal. The burning process uses oxygen. If such an apparatus is used in a confined place with less ventilation the number of oxygen decreases. Also, the amount of CO & CO2 increases which can cause suffocation, poisoning, and even death. The poisoning can cause headache, nausea, hallucination, memory loss, depression, irritation, confusion. More exposure can cause heart diseases and even shortening of life span which is too much serious

The antidote for CO is the most important gas for humans, “Oxygen”. It helps to remove CO from our blood. As for precautions the exposure to these flammable heaters and other sources should be reduced. The vehicles also must be regularly checked for their health. Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors can also be placed in rooms. These help to monitor the level of gas. These monitors are a must for homes with a fireplace inside the house. The monitors can be expensive for a highly sensitive one but they can save lives.

Read More: Cold-Allergy and Treatment

The briquettes, coal and gas heaters should not be kept inside the room for a long time. Biggest prevention is being careful about the use of fire and heaters. Always keep the room well ventilated and remember to put out fires before sleeping. We also suggest being very careful with electric room heaters as they may also be hazardous if not used with care.

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