Carbon Monoxide Safety
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil, wood and coal. Carbon-based fuels are safe to use. It is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess CO is produced.
When CO enters the body, it prevents the blood bringing oxygen to cells, tissues and organs.
Where does CO come from?
Carbon Monoxide can be produced by any combustion appliance, including those that burn fossil fuels e.g. oil, wood, coal. If you have one of these appliances you should make sure that it is serviced and maintained by a competent person and the chimney is swept regularly.
CO can be produced in an appliance which is not properly maintained. Sources can include cookers, heaters, gas tumble dryers, hot water heaters and fireplaces.
Look out for:
- Yellow or orange flames where there should normally be blue flames (except fuel effect fires or flueless appliances which display this colour flame)
- Sooty stains on the walls around fires and water heaters.
- Pilot lights that frequently blow out.
- Increased condensation inside windows.
A number of recent high profile fatalities have been linked to the use of barbeques. Barbeques use carbon fuels and will produce CO. Never bring a barbecue into your home, tent or any other enclosed space after it has been used.
Carbon Monoxide poisoning can be fatal or cause permanent damage to your health.
If you are suffering from Carbon Monoxide poisoning it can be difficult to recognise the symptoms. Early symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning can mimic many common ailments and may easily confused with food poisoning, viral infections, flu or simple tiredness.
Symptoms to look out for:
- Headaches or dizziness
- Loss of consciousness
- Pains in the chest or stomach
- Erratic behaviour
- Visual problems
If you are suffering from symptoms
- Open the windows
- Get fresh air
- Go to your doctor or a casualty department
- If you go to the doctor, mention you think it might be CO poisoning as they can not confirm it without testing specifically for it.
CO check list
- Check the colour of the flames in your appliances. Even if the flames are the right colour, you should get your gas appliances serviced every year.
- Make sure your chimney flue isn't blocked.
- Do you have an eye level gas grill? Older gas cookers can cause problems so use the electric toaster instead and get your cooked checked.
- Is there enough ventilation in your home? Check any airbricks aren't blocked. If your windows are double glazed your appliances may not have enough air and they could produce CO
- When were your appliances last checked? Get them checked every year - don't leave it to chance.
- Do you suffer from unexplained illnesses such as tiredness, dizziness, muscle pains, upset stomach and headaches? Go straight to your doctor and ask for a CO test. Once you leave the area with CO in the air, the levels in your blood will drop so you need to go straight away.
- Are you a tenant? You should have a safety certificate from your landlord. Your landlord must check your home every year by law.
- Buy and fit a CO alarm. Check it regularly but remember, it is not a substitute for regular and correct maintenance of your appliances.
For more information visit the CO Awareness website or email LynnCoAwareness@aol.com