Carbon monoxide is often known as a silent killer because it is a gas that is odourless, colourless and leaves no taste when it is in the air. This often means that people don’t realise they are being poisoned by it until it’s too late. That’s why a carbon monoxide alarm is a crucial piece of safety equipment for any home.
WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE?
Carbon monoxide or CO is a poisonous gas that is produced by the incomplete burning of gas and liquid petroleum gas (LPG). Examples of how it can be generated in the home include a gas appliance that has been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained. It can also happen if flues, vents or chimneys are blocked. Sometimes, burning oil and solid fuels such as coal or wood can also generate carbon monoxide.
If you are diligent here are signs of possible carbon monoxide to look out for. Lazy yellow or orange colour flames on a gas hob, rather than a normal crisp blue flame is a tell-tale sign. Dark staining on or around gas appliances might also indicate a problem alongside a pilot light that blows out frequently.
SYMPTOMS OF CO POISONING
One of the problems with CO poisoning is that it is easy to mistake the symptoms for other conditions. When you breathe in the gas, it replaces oxygen in your bloodstream and this causes cells to die. Even small amounts can lead to poisoning and longer-term effects include paralysis, brain damage and death.
There are six main symptoms to watch out for with CO poisoning:
- Loss of consciousness
Some of these symptoms can easily stem from other conditions so one tip is to monitor whether the symptoms continue when you are away from the house. Look to see if others are experiencing the same symptoms while in the house and even watch for signs of problems with pets as animals are affected by CO poisoning too.
DEALING WITH CARBON MONOXIDE
If you think there is any chance that there could be carbon monoxide gas in your home, you should immediately allow fresh air to flow through it by opening all doors and windows. Then turn off any gas appliances and leave the house. You should call a Gas Safe engineer to inspect the possible sources of CO in the house and call a gas emergency helpline if you are uncertain. You can also check with your doctor who can take a blood or breath test to check for signs of carbon monoxide.
GETTING A CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM
One of the best ways to protect you and your family against carbon monoxide poisoning is to have a CO alarm in your home. Combined with regular maintenance and checks of appliances, this can dramatically reduce your risk of poisoning. They work much the same as a smoke alarm and can be purchased in DIY stores and supermarkets. Look for British Standard EN 50291 to ensure you are getting a good quality piece of equipment. An alarm should be placed in every room where there is a gas appliance.