Carbon Monoxide Kills
Every year around 30 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by gas appliances and flues that have not been properly installed or maintained. Many others also suffer ill health. When gas does not burn properly, as with other fuels such as coal, wood or oil, excess carbon monoxide is produced.
You can’t see it. You can’t taste it. You can’t even smell it. But carbon monoxide can kill without warning in just a matter of hours.
You are particularly at risk when you are sleeping because you cannot recognise the early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. These include tiredness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, pains in the chest and stomach pains. These symptoms can mimic many common ailments and may easily be confused with flu or simple tiredness.
If you or your family experience the above symptoms, and you believe carbon monoxide may be involved, you must seek urgent medical advice. Your doctor will need to test a blood or breath sample. Carbon monoxide quickly leaves the blood and tests may be inaccurate if taken more than four hours after exposure has ended.
You are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if:
- Your appliance was poorly installed;
- Your appliance is not working properly;
- Your appliance has not been checked for safety or maintained regularly;
- There is not enough fresh air in the room;
- Your chimney or flue gets blocked up; or
- You allow non-Gas Safe-registered engineers to install or maintain your appliance(s).
There is a particular risk if you sleep in a room where an appliance, which is not of the room-sealed type (eg a conventional gas fire), is left burning at night. (Flue outlets for room-sealed appliances are commonly located on an external wall at a low level protected by a cage rather than at or above roof level.)
Never use a gas appliance if you think it is not working properly. Signs to look out for include yellow or orange flames (except for fuel-effect fires which display this colour flame), soot or stains around the appliance and pilot lights that frequently blow out.
- Never cover an appliance or block the convection air vents.
- Never block or obstruct any fixed ventilation grilles or air bricks.
- Never block or cover outside flues.
Caution: Whenever draught exclusion, ceiling or extraction fans, double glazing or conservatory extensions are fitted to a room containing a gas appliance, the appliance should subsequently be checked for safety.
All gas consumers are advised to have appliances checked for safety at least every 12 months by a Gas Safe-registered installer.
Carbon monoxide alarms are a useful back-up precaution but must not be regarded as a substitute for proper installation and maintenance of gas equipment by a Gas Safe-registered installer. If you decide to buy a carbon monoxide alarm, ensure it meets current safety standards (BS 7860 or BS EN 50291) and carries the Kitemark. If in doubt ask a member of our staff for advice. Always follow the manufacturer’s siting instructions.
If you smell gas, or suspect there is a gas escape, you should immediately do the following:
- Open all doors and windows.
- Shut off the gas supply at the meter control valve (if you know where it is). If gas continues to escape call Transco on the Gas Emergency Freephone Number 0800 111 999.
- In the case of suspected carbon monoxide leakage, follow the above procedure, except if you are able to identify the specific appliance at fault. In this case you should consult a Gas Safe-registered installer to investigate and make repairs.
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