CO Dangers

Carbon Monoxide (CO) can kill within minutes

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, poisonous gas and once inhaled, it starves vital organs of oxygen. When released, it can take just a few minutes to slip in to unconsciousness and never come around. If you happen to be asleep when CO has been emitted, the chances are that you will never wake up again (this is also one reason why the general public needs to be aware that carbon monoxide “black spot” patches do not provide adequate warning about the dangers as they do not make a sound and you will not notice a change of colour when asleep!).

Why you should not buy carbon monoxide patches! An alarm needs to be audible

Carbon monoxide is often referred to as the Silent Killer as it is very difficult to detect and because it kills thousands of people around the world each year.

The sad reality is that many CO related deaths could have been avoided with some basic precautions and a little vigilance.

 

 

Signs to look out for:

  • Lazy orange or yellow gas flames (normally gas flames are a crisp, bright blue).
  • Pilot lights that frequently blow out.
  • Soot or yellow brown stains on and around appliances.
  • A noticeable increase of condensation inside windows.
  • Slower than usual burning of solid-fuels fires.

Common symptoms of CO poisoning

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can often be mistaken as flu or food poisoning. CO poisoning however does not produce a fever or aching symptoms which can not be said of flu and symptoms may be more sporadic in frequency so that you may find that symptoms worsen at certain times of the day or in particular places. Typical symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Light-headedness/dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Red colouration of skin due to lack of oxygen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches

Causes of CO gas leaks and steps to prevent CO poisoning

Carbon monoxide gas is produced when carbon-based fuels including gas, petrol, lpg, coal, oil or wood are burnt without enough oxygen and potential sources of CO are listed below:

  • a  gas appliance has been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained
  • blocked flues, chimneys or vents
  • indoor use of a barbecue or outdoor heater
  • new property improvements which reduce ventilation
  • running car or lawnmower engines in closed garages
  • using cooking appliances for heating purposes

Gas Appliances should be fitted by a certified Gas Safety Engineer and it is important to have your appliances regularly serviced and maintained (serviced at least once a year). Ensure that chimneys are regularly swept (nesting birds in the chimney may cause a blockage for instance) and make sure flues and vents are cleaned regularly to prevent blockages. Rooms and appliances should also be properly ventilated (never block vents).

Install a high quality audible CO detector in your home in the area where gas appliances are located and position it high up near to the ceiling as CO rises rapidly before falling. Also ensure that the CO alarm that you intend purchasing complies with British Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European approval mark, such as a Kitemark). The advanced Honeywell CO unit sold on this website fully conforms to British and stringent European standards.

If going on holiday check to see if there are gas appliances where you are staying and if so take along your carbon monoxide detector as an added precaution.

A word about Barbecues and other appliances

Never take a barbecue into a tent, awning, caravan, motorhome or cabin. A warm, smouldering barbecue gives off plenty of poisonous CO so leave it outside when you have finished cooking. Do not take a barbecue inside to keep you warm and never leave a lit barbecue unattended or while sleeping.

Mobile Gas Heaters (L.P.G.)

Mobile Gas Heaters should not be used in confined spaces with poor air circulation and make sure that you choose an appliance that meets the British or European safety standard. Damaged LPG mobile heaters can result in the production of CO gas especially if the plaques or bricks at the front of the heater are damaged, or the retaining cement is missing.

Wood Pellet Boilers

Due to the enclosed design of these hoppers and tanks the atmosphere inside can become oxygen depleted and can give rise to carbon monoxide gas being released. Advisable therefore not to place your head into the wood pellet hopper under any circumstances. Ensure that the boiler is cleaned and serviced by a qualified professional as per your manufacturer’s instruction booklet.

Flueless gas water heaters

Flueless gas water heaters can also be responsible for giving off deadly Carbon Monoxide and can build up to dangerous levels if there is insufficient ventilation.

What to do if you suspect a Carbon Monoxide leak

Turn off all appliances, open all windows and doors and leave the property straight away. If anyone in your house has symptoms of CO poisoning get fresh air immediately and seek urgent medical advice. Call the National Gas Emergency number: 0800 111 999.