Neighbour finds elderly woman suffering carbon monoxide poisoning in Surry Hills

Firefighters have praised the efforts of a man who went to check on his elderly neighbour and found she was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning after using an outdoor heater inside her apartment.

The man potentially saved the life of the 84-year-old woman, who was conscious but unable to communicate when he found her inside her Surry Hills home on Thursday evening.

It is the latest in a string of cases of carbon monoxide poisoning around Sydney this month, and comes in the week that firefighters issued an urgent warning about the lethal danger posed by using outdoor heaters inside.

Earlier this week, a family of four from Penrith suffered carbon monoxide poisoning when they fell asleep around an outdoor charcoal heater which they had dragged into their living room.

On the weekend, four people were taken to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning after using barbecue coals to heat their Bankstown unit.

A couple died on a weekend camping trip to Kurrajong at the start of the month.

Superintendent Paul Johnstone, from Fire and Rescue NSW, said emergency services were called to the Surry Hills unit about 7pm on Thursday to find the elderly woman quite ill.

“She was conscious although she was having trouble talking to people and communicating,” he said.

“She was using one of those outdoor-type heaters internally for heating purposes. These give off carbon monoxide. Even with the door being opened, the levels [of carbon monoxide] inside were still very elevated and dangerous to a person’s health, and possibly life threatening.”

The woman was taken to hospital for treatment.

Fire and Rescue NSW has again repeated its warning for people to avoiding using outside cooking appliances and heaters indoors, especially in enclosed spaces where there is no ventilation.

Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless gas that can build up indoors when fuel is burning and there is inadequate ventilation.

When carbon monoxide is inhaled, it attaches itself to a substance called haemoglobin, which would otherwise carry oxygen around the body. Instead of delivering oxygen to the parts of the body that needed it to survive, the haemoglobin delivers potentially deadly carbon monoxide.