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Let’s use braziers cautiously

AS the cold weather intensifies, most people in high density suburbs and rural areas where electric heaters are rarely heard of have started using burning braziers to keep themselves warm in their homes. Going by predictions of the Zambia Meteorological Department, the country is expected to continue experiencing cold weather this week with minimum temperatures ranging from two to 27 degrees Celsius in most areas. The seven-day weather forecast from June 4 to 10 states that nights will be mainly clear and cool with maximum temperatures of between 21 degrees Celsius and 27 degrees Celsius.
In view of this frigid period, braziers have become the main source of warmth for most households, which is cardinal to one’s health if used correctly. Unfortunately, some people have a tendency of warming their rooms with burning braziers overnight with no proper ventilation to let out the life-threatening carbon monoxide. This is exactly what happened to a 26-year-old woman of Lusaka’s Mtendere Township and her two-week-old baby who suffocated after the family left a burning brazier inside the bedroom overnight. Jane and the baby were discovered dead by her husband, Emmanuel Munamonga, on Saturday morning. According to Mr Munamonga, his wife kept the brazier inside their bedroom to keep the newborn warm from the cold. “The house was too cold for the baby. So my wife used to keep the brazier in our bedroom overnight to keep the baby warm and safe from flu and cough,” he said. Indeed the infant needed to be kept warm, but keeping the brazier burning overnight in a poorly-ventilated room raised concentration levels of carbon monoxide, which eventually suffocated the woman and her baby. That is why it is important that if people decide to keep a burning brazier in their rooms over a lengthy period, they should ensure proper ventilation to let out carbon monoxide. This is because braziers have contributed to many deaths through carbon monoxide poisoning. If the room is not ventilated enough, the burning brazier, which produces carbon monoxide, poisons and kills, in some cases, whole families through suffocation. The presence of carbon monoxide is exhibited in flu, headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and irritability. Continued exposure to this gas can lead to vomiting, loss of consciousness, brain damage, heart irregularity, breathing difficulties, muscle weakness, abortions and even death.
Keeping warm during the cold season is natural and often essential, but with the high cost of electricity, people with access to firewood or charcoal resort to the brazier. However, the unfortunate part of this is that the brazier is particularly dangerous when left burning overnight to keep the home or room warm. It has no external chimney, so the gases, the product of combustion, do not escape from the room the brazier is warming. But if windows are open, there is absolutely little problem because these gases easily vent out into the atmosphere, leaving the room with low carbon monoxide concentration levels.
However, there are few people who want to warm a room willing to leave windows open because they want maximum warmth.
As a result, the danger increases as carbon dioxide levels build up. Despite carbon dioxide not being poisonous, it can suffocate people if its concentrations rise to very high levels. We therefore appeal to our people to be cautious enough as they use burning braziers to warm themselves by ensuring that their rooms are well ventilated to prevent high levels of carbon monoxide.
It is very sad that just in the early days of the cold season, we have already lost two lives – a lactating mother and her innocent baby. So, let us be extra cautious to avoid loss of more lives through improper usage of braziers.