Carbon monoxide is a gas you cannot see, smell
or taste. If you breathe enough of it, it can cause permanent
heart, lung, or brain damage or even kill!
What is it?
Carbon monoxide can be given off by any appliance which burns a
fossil fuel such as gas, coal or oil. It can enter your room if
your appliance is faulty, or if the room is not properly
ventilated, or the chimney or flue is blocked.
To make sure your appliances are safe, have them properly
installed and regularly maintained.
Gas appliances must be serviced by engineers who are
members of the Gas Safe Register.
Signs pointing to incomplete burning are:
- Gas flames that burn orange or yellow instead of blue
- Stains, soot or discolouring around a fire or water heater
- An unusual smell when the appliance is on
- Solid fuel appliances that burn slowly or go out
What to do
- Have your appliances regularly serviced by a qualified, Gas
Safe Registered engineer
- Make sure your home is properly ventilated - never block
- Make sure all chimneys and flues are regularly swept and kept
- If you are buying a carbon monoxide detector look out for one
which complies with BS 7860:1996 and carries the British Standard
Kite Mark, but never rely only on these devices
The effect on you
Carbon monoxide is absorbed into the bloodstream 250 times
quicker than normal air.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning are similar to a cold
or flu and can include the following:
- Short-term memory loss
- Chronic fatigue or exhaustion
- Shortness of breath and chest pain
- Depression or anxiety
Sudden, acute exposure is a form of suffocation. It can start
with headaches and weakness, dizziness and breathlessness at low
levels. This may then be followed by drowsiness, collapse and coma,
and eventual death. People who recover from CO poisoning may have
long term problems, including difficulties with concentration and
A simple blood test can find out whether someone is suffering
from CO exposure. If carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected get the
victim into fresh air quickly.
Carbon monoxide detectors
Ideally, you should put a carbon monoxide detector in or near
every room with a heating or
cooking appliance. They can be battery operated or mains powered by
plugging direct into a
Carbon monoxide is as heavy as air but when it is released with
warm air, it will initially rise.