Every year in the UK, there are 25,000 incidents of Carbon Monoxide poisoning – some of which are fatal. Carbon Monoxide is often known as the ‘silent killer’, as it’s without colour, smell or taste, and can only be detected by a special detector. Around fifteen people each year die from Carbon Monoxide poisoning as a result of gas flues and appliances that haven’t been maintained or installed correctly.
This poisonous gas is released when carbon-based fuels, such as oil, wood, gas or coal, don’t burn properly – and release excess CO. This is poisonous, and if it enters the body, it prevents blood cells from bringing essential oxygen to tissues, cells and organs. It’s also very quick to act, meaning that inhalation of Carbon Monoxide can kill very quickly and without waning. Even at low levels, breathing in Carbon Monoxide over a long period can cause real harm to your health – including brain damage and paralysis.
So how can you tell if Carbon Monoxide is present in your home? Well firstly, look for signs such as orange or yellow flames – rather than blue. Look for staining around appliances, or soot, as well as pilot lights that keep blowing out. Increased condensation levels inside windows can also be a sign. If you do think that your gas appliance is faulty or leaking, call the National Gas Emergency service (0800 111 999), and switch off the appliance, before shutting off the gas supply at the valve. Open doors and windows, and visit your GP as soon as you can.
You may also notice symptoms such as breathlessness, nausea, headaches, dizziness, tiredness, chest pains, visual problems or erratic behaviour. Loss of consciousness is a serious sign, and medical help should be sought immediately. If you believe you may have been exposed to carbon monoxide, seek urgent medical advice.
You can also keep safe by ensuring that your appliances are installed and maintained by a Gas Safe registered engineer, and by installing a carbon monoxide detector which work in the same way as a smoke detector.
Keep your home and family safe – buy a Carbon Monoxide Alarm!