Carbon monoxide poisoning – barbecues and why they can be deadly
I really don’t think this widely enough publicised. I am embarrassed that until recently I did not connect I did not connect that the fumes given off in the dying embers of a barbecue are poisonous. Actually not just poisonous but are deadly carbon monoxide fumes that kill.
Now I understand about gas appliances and carbon monoxide. I also understand about open fires and log burners requiring appropriate ventilation and a carbon monoxide alarm, but I had never quite clocked the connection between that and barbecues and the toxic gas in its dying embers. Am I the only one who is so naive?
Deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning
What has prompted me to write about this is having heard of two deaths in the last year quite close to where I live, where people have died as a direct result of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by fumes in their tent.
I also heard of a lady – a seasoned camper who managed to crawl to the reception of the campsite where her husband was already unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning. They both just survived. Mainly because she recognised the symptoms before she fell unconscious.
Carbon Monoxide – what is it
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil, wood and coal.
You cannot see it, taste it or smell it but CO can kill quickly with little warning. Around 50 people die every year from CO poisoning caused by gas, oil and solid fuel appliances and flues that have not been properly installed, maintained or that are poorly ventilated.
Why you must never move the barbecue close to your tent or caravan
The thing is the story is nearly always the same. People were cold so they put the barbecue close to or inside their tent. Similar events have happened in caravans too.
Lets imagine a scenario when you might just be tempted to move your barbecue close to your tent. You are camping, the kids are moaning they are very cold and no one can get to sleep because the weather is so inclement. It would stand to reason that the dying embers of the barbecue might be the answer. Nothing is going to catch fire – there is no smoke – and of course you are not going to put it right in the tent but just outside in the awning. However this is still a very dangerous thing to do as this is when there is likely to carbon monoxide present.
Take a look at the following advice on barbecue safety and check out what ROSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), has to say.
- Never use fuel-burning devices (e.g. disposable barbecues, camping stoves, camping heaters, lanterns, and charcoal grills) inside a tent.
- Using these indoors can cause Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning.
- They give off fumes for hours and hours after you have used them – levels high enough to result in CO poisoning.
- To avoid hazardous CO exposures, fuel-burning equipment should never be used inside a tent, camper, or other enclosed shelter.
Fuel-burning equipment can include:
- camping stoves
- camping heaters
- charcoal grills
- disposable barbecues
Be aware – don’t ever do the following
Opening tent flaps, doors, or windows is insufficient to prevent build-up of CO concentrations from these devices.
Also, when using fuel-burning devices outdoors, the exhaust should not vent into enclosed shelters.
Be careful and vigilant to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and stay safe.