Protecting your family from invisible killers
It might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but there are actually a number of potential killers lurking in every house, in the form of fumes that can be almost undetectable until it is too late.
We have all heard of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and benzene. But how much do you really know about where they come from, what risks are associated with them and what you can do to reduce your family’s exposure?
Let’s take a look at each in turn.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common type of fatal poisoning worldwide. The gas is odourless and colourless, meaning you can breathe it in without knowing you are doing so. The biggest domestic risk associated with carbon monoxide is if you have a gas boiler, and it is vitally important that you have it inspected and serviced annually by a gas safe registered engineer.
Of course, faults can develop in a system even if it is properly maintained, and this is why every home should have a carbon monoxide detector. RoSPA reports that there are around 40 deaths and 200 hospitalisations in the UK every year as a direct result of carbon monoxide poisoning. A detector can be bought for less than £20, and could mean the difference between life and death.
As the name suggests, carbon dioxide (CO2) is closely related to carbon monoxide, in that it is a compound containing the same elements, just in different ratios. Like carbon monoxide, CO2 is colourless, odourless and can be fatal in sufficiently high concentrations.
Unlike carbon monoxide, however, CO2 is a naturally occurring gas that is present in the atmosphere. We exhale CO2, and plants absorb it through photosynthesis.
Natural doesn’t mean nothing to worry about, though. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that is harmful to the environment, and is not something that you or your children want to be breathing in excessive amounts. Exposure can cause headaches and dizziness.
If you have an oil boiler, CO2 will be vented as a natural part of the combustion process. However, you can reduce the amount emitted by choosing a home heating oil provider that provides a premium grade kerosene. Not only does this mean lower emissions and fewer fumes, it will also enhance the lifespan of your boiler at the same time.
Benzene is an organic compound commonly used in paints, plastics, adhesives, pesticides, and detergents. It is also a natural component found in cigarette smoke, petrol fumes and car exhausts.
It is a carcinogen, and can also affect the red blood cells, leading to anaemia, depression and damage to the immune system.
The most common source of benzene exposure is at the petrol pumps. Kids are at a lower height, and are right in the path of the highest concentration, so do not allow them to stand on the forecourt while you are topping up the car.
Also, choose low toxic or no toxic paints and adhesives for use around the house. This means reading the labels carefully to check what is really in there, as some can be misleading.