Key messages

  • Inhaling carbon monoxide can cause serious chronic health problems, and high levels of carbon monoxide in the air may cause people to pass out or even die.
  • There is a risk of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from domestic gas heaters and smouldering wood.
  • All gas heating appliances, and especially open-flued gas heaters, should be serviced and tested by an appropriately trained and licensed gasfitter at least once every two years.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is working with Energy Safe Victoria to ensure Victorians are aware of potential health risks associated with gas heaters.
  • DHHS is testing all open-flued heaters in its public housing properties to prevent health risks from potential carbon monoxide exposure.

What has happened?

A number of open-flued gas heaters have been identified as posing a serious health risk. The Department of Health and Human Services Victoria and Energy Safe Victoria advise that you do not use a Vulcan Heritage or Pyrox Heritage gas heater in your home until it has been tested and serviced by a qualified gasfitter. Vulcan Heritage and Pyrox Heritage space heaters have been withdrawn from sale and their manufacturer has ceased production.

Open flue gas heaters are particularly sensitive to negative pressure in the room environment, as in certain circumstances exhaust fans can draw carbon monoxide back into the room. Open flue heaters are not designed to operate in better-sealed, newer houses that may have less ventilation.

Health problems linked to faulty gas heaters

When carbon monoxide is inhaled, it replaces oxygen in the blood, which may cause symptoms including tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, confusion or chest pain.

Children, pregnant women and their unborn babies, older people, and people with asthma or other chronic illnesses are at increased risk from air pollutants including carbon monoxide.

If you suspect you may be affected by carbon monoxide from a gas appliance, immediately turn it off and open the doors and windows to ventilate the area. Leave the property, keeping the doors and windows open if possible and seek medical advice immediately or call the NURSE-ON-CALL on 1300 60 60 24 (24/7). In an emergency, call 000.

What should householders do?

All open-flued gas heaters, especially Vulcan or Pyrox Heritage gas space heaters, should not be used until they have been tested and serviced by a qualified gas fitter. 
Testing should also include the flue and checking for adequate ventilation in the house.

All types of gas heaters, including central heating units, space heaters, wall units and gas log fires, should be serviced a minimum of every two years by a licensed gasfitter who has completed training on detecting and correcting risks of carbon monoxide spillage. Before you book, make sure to ask if the gasfitter has the right equipment and has completed this training.

Use alternative sources of heating until your heater has been serviced. DO NOT bring outdoor gas appliances inside such as a patio heater. This is dangerous and could also lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Consider buying an audible carbon monoxide alarm that meets EU or US standards.

Assistance for people living in DHHS housing

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has a program in place to disconnect and replace all Vulcan Heritage gas space heaters or Pyrox Heritage gas space heater in Victorian public housing residences.

Phone DHHS Housing Call Centre on 13 11 72 for more information.

Where to get help