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Carbon monoxide

You can't see it, smell it or taste it, but if you breathe it in sufficient amounts, carbon monoxide can cause permanent damage to your heart, lungs and brain, or even kill you.

It can be given off by a faulty appliance, which burns gas, oil or coal. If the room is poorly ventilated, or the chimney flue is blocked the effects can be sudden and acute.

Fitted appliances should be regularly maintained. A registered CORGI firm should service gas appliances.

What to look out for:

Signs of incomplete burning

  • Stains, sooty deposits or dark discolouration around a fire or water heater. These usually appear over a prolonged period.
  • An unusual or gassy smell when the appliance is on. It won't be carbon monoxide you can smell but it is a good indicator that it might be present.
  • Gas flames that burn orange or yellow instead of a bright blue flame
  • Solid fuel appliances that burn poorly or keep going out

Carbon monoxide effects

  • It is absorbed into the bloodstream 250 times quicker than normal air, so the effects are rapid
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning presents similar symptoms to the onset of a cold or influenza depending on the severity. It will include the following conditions in varying degrees:
    • Headache
    • Restlessness
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain
    • Short-term memory loss
    • Poor concentration, fatigue or exhaustion
    • Palpitations
    • Disorientation and unconsciousness

What to do to stay safe

  • Make sure your chimneys and flues are regularly swept and kept clear
  • Never block up air vents or air bricks in the cavity walls to ensure the home is properly ventilated throughout the year
  • Have your appliances regularly serviced by a qualified engineer
  • Fit a carbon monoxide detector that carries the Kite Mark and that complies with British Standard 7860:1996  

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