Keeping Your Family Safe From Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon Monoxide is an extremely dangerous gas which is responsible for many deaths in the UK each year. It is an odourless, colourless, and poisonous substance which is impossible to detect without a carbon monoxide alarm.
Carbon monoxide is emitted whenever natural gas, oil, wood, kerosene, or coal are burned. This makes carbon monoxide poisoning more common in the colder months in the UK, as households turn on their furnaces, wood stoves, and fireplaces.
Everyone is vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning, including strong and healthy adults. However, children, the elderly and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable.
In this guide, we are going to share everything you need to know to keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you would like a Gas Safe registered engineer to assess the safety of your gas burning appliances, contact us on +44 20 7458 4949 or via email@example.com.
Common Causes Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
As mentioned earlier, carbon monoxide is created when fuels like oil, gas, coal, wood are burnt. The smoke from materials like cigarettes and internal combustion engines can also produce carbon monoxide.
The most common household appliances which generate carbon monoxide include:
- Central heating systems
- Gas fires
- Kerosene heaters
- Gas or Wood BBQs
- Water heaters
- Gas ovens
- Open wood fires
Most of these appliances have exhaust vents, chimneys, and flues which are designed to expel the poisonous gasses created during combustion. However, the appliance is poorly maintained or is not correctly ventilated, it can lead to carbon monoxide levels building up.
Common causes of household carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Poorly maintained appliances
Appliances that aren’t burning their fuel efficiency are more likely to emit high levels of carbon monoxide. They are also more likely suffer from mechanical issues which result in the emission of carbon monoxide.
- Blocked flues and chimneys
If a flue or chimney becomes blocked, any carbon monoxide that is produced cannot escape and begins to build up in the home, creating a very dangerous situation.
- Burning fuel in an enclosed space
Some fuel burning appliances and vehicles should only be run outdoors or in areas with a lot of ventilation. This includes BBQs, internal combustion engines, and gas generators.
- Chemical fumes
Certain cleaning products and paints can emit carbon monoxide.
- Faulty exhausts
Leaked or blocked exhausts can cause carbon monoxide levels to build-up.
Install Carbon Dioxide Detectors
All homeowners with fuel burning appliances should have at least one high-quality carbon dioxide detector in the home.
When purchasing a detector, ensure that it is compliant with the latest British or European Standard (BS Kitemark or EN50291).
Be aware that having a carbon dioxide detector is not a substitute for taking proper pre-cautions around the home. You will still need to maintain your fuel burning appliances, ensure flues/chimneys are clear and take the other steps listed below.
Maintain And Service Appliances Regularly
Poorly maintained heating appliances are one of the most common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning incidents in the United Kingdom. Fuel burning appliances like boilers, central heating systems, cookers, and gas water heaters should be serviced regularly by a properly qualified engineer.
When it comes to gas appliances, all work should be performed by a Gas Safe registered engineer. They have the expertise necessary to ensure that gas appliances are safe and running efficiently. Ideally, your gas appliances should be checked every 12 months.
Maintain Chimneys And Flues
Hire a qualified sweep to regularly clean all of the chimneys and flues at your home. The person you hire should be a member of the National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS), Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, and Association of Professional Independent Chimney Sweeps (APICS).
Be Aware Of The Signs and Symptoms Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
There are several warning signs which indicate that the level of carbon monoxide in a property is high. They include:
- Several of the property’s occupants complain of feeling unwell with symptoms including headache, dizziness, nausea and breathlessness.
- The symptoms of the shared illness seem to go away when less time is spent at the property
- The illness seems to be worse in the colder months (when heating appliances are turned on)
- Occupants of the property beginning to feel confused or struggling to concentrate.
- There are stains on appliances. This could be black story marks on gas fire covers, yellow/brown marks on boilers/stoves
- The pilot light on your boiler blows out frequently
- Appliance pilot lights burn yellow or orange instead of blue
If the levels of carbon monoxide are extremely high, occupants might experience severe symptoms including:
- Impaired mental state
- Feelings of intoxication
- Loss of physical coordination
- Fast heart rate
- Chest pain
- Loss of consciousness
If you experience these symptoms, evacuate the building.
Never Use A Gas Oven Or Gas Range For Heating
Ovens and ranges are not heating appliances. They are not designed to be left on for very long periods and may begin to emit high levels of carbon monoxide. Don’t use them to heat your home.
Keep your home well ventilated
Ventilation and fresh air will reduce the risk of noxious gasses building up. Avoid blocking air vents and consider partially opening a window or door, even when the weather is cold. Ensure that heaters have space around them for air to circulate.
Avoid Using Fuel Burning Appliances In Enclosed Spaces
Don’t run gas generators, petrol mowers, internal combustion engines, charcoal/gas burning BBQs, or other outdoor appliances indoors.
Fit additional extractions fans is necessary
If you realise that there are rooms in the house which have fuel burning appliances without a flue or chimney, consider installing extraction fans. Many older homes in the UK do not have fans in areas like the kitchen even when a gas stove is in place, which is potentially dangerous.
Don’t sleep in rooms with unflued heaters
Avoid sleeping around unflued gas or paraffin heaters.
What To Do If You Suspect Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If your carbon monoxide alarm goes off or you suspect there is a carbon monoxide leak, do the following:
- Stop all appliances and open all windows and doors
- Evacuate the property
- Call the gas emergency number on 0800 111 999
- Do not re-enter the property
- If you believe an occupant has been affected by carbon monoxide poisoning, seek immediate medical help
Thank you for reading. If you are concerned about how much carbon monoxide the gas burning appliances in your home are emitting, contact PNPM Plumbing & Heating on +44 20 7458 4949 or via firstname.lastname@example.org. One of our Gas Safe engineers will inspect your appliances to determine if they are safe to use.