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Carbon Monoxide Safety

Every year, hundreds of people fall ill from this potentially fatal infliction, despite it being easily preventable.

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Check out the dangers and learn how to stay safe

This year alone 722 people have been hospitalised and 47 people have been killed due to carbon monoxide poisoning. Small changes made to your home and your attitude can help prevent anyone you care about being affected by this dangerous illness.

What causes carbon monoxide poisoning?

When fuels are not burned effectively or fully, carbon monoxide is released. There are many situations where this can occur in your home. Household fires, central heating systems, barbecues, gas stoves and car exhaust fumes are just a few examples.

Carbon Monoxide Safety

The causes and symptoms

Many people believe that CO poisoning is just caused by gas appliances and BBQs, but there are some surprising sources to the deadly gas. We've outlined some key dangers and signs that you're at risk of CO poisoning in this infographic. Feel free to share.

2015 Carbon monoxide detector requirements

In 2015, new regulations came in requiring landlords to install both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms in rented residential accommodation. Landlords should be aware that failure to comply with this requirement can lead to a fine of up to £5,000.

What does it do to my body?

If you have been inflicted with CO poisoning, you’ll experience a series of symptoms that are akin to flu, food poisoning or a bad cold. However, the aches, pains, and stomach cramps are indicative of something serious happening in your body. 

When you breathe in oxygen, it pairs with haemoglobin, which carries the oxygen around your body to your organs and muscles. However, haemoglobin is far more compatible with CO particles and their subsequent coupling is extremely dangerous. The resulting carboxyhaemoglobin prevents oxygen from being carried in your body’s bloodstream, which causes tissue and cells to decay.

How do I spot it?

Although most people realise they have carbon monoxide poisoning after displaying some of the many symptoms (which you can see on our infographic above) there are some other ways to spot the signs of a CO laden atmosphere:

  • Black, sooty marks around fireplaces or heating systems
  • Lots of smoke building up in a poorly ventilated area
  • Yellow flames, rather than blue flames, on a gas cooker
  • Yellow or inconsistent  flames in a boiler pilot light
  • An increase in condensation on the windows 

Another indication that you may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning is if you find that your symptoms only appear when you are at home and improve or disappear when you go out. 

The easiest and most effective way to work out if you have carbon monoxide poisoning is to buy and install a carbon monoxide detector, which will alarm you if levels are dangerously raised.

Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning

Fortunately, it’s incredibly easy to minimise the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. Installing a carbon monoxide alarm is a cheap and easy way to ensure you’re notified of any changes to your environment regarding CO emissions. There are several things to consider: 

  • Make sure that the  alarm is from a reputable brand and bought from a trusted source
  • Decide what type of alarm you want. Some of them notify you of CO dangers by changing colour, while a little more money can buy you a device with a sound alarm. Prices range from approximately £5 to about £50, depending on needs and sophistication.
  • Once you’ve bought your alarm, check it has the British Standard EN 50291 mark (otherwise known as the BSEN 50291) or the CE mark.
  • Take care to install your alarm somewhere where it can detect levels accurately. The best thing is to keep it at the same level as your head, so it monitors at breathing-height. Therefore, fixing it to the ceiling might not be the best course of action.
  • Carry out monthly tests and regular battery changes to guarantee your alarm is in good working order. 

It’s estimated that 20 million homes in the UK still don’t have a carbon monoxide alarm installed. Such an easy process and such a low price-point negates any excuses. Buy and install an alarm today, and safeguard your family from the lethal risks of CO poisoning.

For more information on preventing this danger and raising awareness, visit CO Victim.

Worried about gas safety?

Click the banner below to read our helpful guide and infographic and download our letter templates all relating to gas safety in the home.