Carbon monoxide


What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas. It can be given off by appliances that burn fossil fuels such as gas, coal, wood or oil, if they’re not working properly, if the flue is blocked in any way, or if the room is not properly ventilated.

Why is it so dangerous?

Carbon monoxide is odourless, colourless and tasteless, which makes it difficult to detect. However, its effects are deadly. On average, 50 people a year are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning due to faulty heating appliances.

What are the main causes of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Most cases of carbon monoxide poisoning are due to inadequate ventilation or poor maintenance of appliances, blocked or leaky flues and chimneys. Chimneys can become blocked for various reasons. It could be as a result of birds nesting on the chimney, or possible degradation of the flue. A blocked flue can lead to carbon monoxide leaking into your home.

Who is most at risk?

Some people mistakenly think that it is only gas-fuelled heating systems which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning – in fact, it can happen with any fossil fuel system if the system, which includes both the appliance and the flue, is faulty or the room is not properly ventilated. Also, some people associate carbon monoxide poisoning with rented accommodation – in fact, more people are killed in owner-occupied rather than rented properties.

What are the early symptoms Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

  • Early symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can mimic many common ailments and may easily be confused with food poisoning, viral infections, flu or simple tiredness. Symptoms to look out for include:
  • headaches or dizziness
  • breathlessness
  • nausea
  • loss of consciousness
  • tiredness
  • pains in the chest or stomach
  • erratic behaviour
  • visual problems

For more information visit the NHS or telephone NHS Direct on 111.
If you or your family experience any of the above symptoms and believe you may have been exposed to carbon monoxide, you should seek urgent medical advice from either your GP or an A&E department.


Carbon Monoxide Alarm

They look similar to smoke alarms and are very easy to fit by following the manufacturer’s instructions.

You can buy one for under £20 at your local DIY store, supermarket or from your energy supplier.

Before buying, always make sure it is marked to EN 50291. It should also have the British Standards’ Kitemark or another European approval organisation’s mark on it.

Follow the alarm manufacturer’s instructions on siting, testing and replacing the alarm.

While an alarm will alert you to carbon monoxide, it is no substitute for having an annual gas safety check and regular servicing by a Gas Safe registered engineer.




Useful Links
Health and Safety Executive
Gas Safe Register