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Residents warned of the unsafe use of heat sources Print E-mail
01 June 2017

With the icy winter weather already lashing Johannesburg, many residents – especially in informal settlements – might resort to using desperate measures to keep themselves warm, sometimes with deadly consequences.

To help prevent such incidents from happening, officials of the City of Joburg’s Department of Environmental Health visited the Kwa-MaiMai informal settlement in Jeppestown, Region F, on Wednesday, 31 May to create awareness of the dangers of unsafe use of sources of heat.

The safety campaign was also prompted by reports of clinics being inundated by people – many of them children – who had been involved in accidents related to the incorrect and unsafe use of paraffin, paraffin stoves, heaters and braziers.

“We have heard many reports from our clinics, particularly those located near informal settlements, about accidents related to the use of paraffin stoves, in particular. We believe we can do a lot to prevent such incidents with this safety campaign,” said Environmental Health Practitioner, Audrey Rangata.

Rangata said it was important that adults are trained on what to do when an emergency arises. She said substances such as paraffin should be kept out of reach of children.

“In most cases, children drink paraffin because they are enticed by what it is stored in. For example, paraffin must never be stored in a juice or cold drink bottle. Store paraffin in a special and labelled bottle that children cannot open,” she said.

Rangata added that in a case in which a child had imbibed paraffin, he or she must not be given anything to eat or drink because that might exacerbate the poisoning. “There are no home remedies for paraffin poisoning. The child must not even attempt to vomit because the substance can severely affect the lungs."

She said adults could also minimise the effects of paraffin by removing clothes soaked in paraffin so the skin does not absorb the substance. “If necessary, wash the paraffin off the child’s skin and then quickly take the child to the clinic or hospital,” Rangata explained.

During her presentation, Rangata also dispelled the myth that drinking milk could neutralise the effects of the imbibed paraffin.

To prevent paraffin fires, Rangata urged residents to:

 Put the paraffin appliance on an even surface;
 Keep the appliance away from flammable products;
 Always supervise children when using paraffin products;
 Always switch off the appliance when leaving the house or when going to bed; and
 Use a special funnel to pour paraffin into an appliance.

“In case of a fire emergency, residents should use soil to extinguish the flames and can call 10177/10111 for help,” she said.

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