The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion of organic fossil fuels, such as oil gas, coal and natural gas. Common sources of carbon monoxide are faulty gas heating systems such as gas fires and central heating, and when the gas is unable to escape due to a blocked flue or chimney, it can accumulate and be inhaled.

Carbon monoxide is often referred to as ‘the silent killer’. It is odourless, colourless, tasteless and is therefore undetectable without the use of a carbon monoxide detector.

Severe carbon monoxide poisoning can cause death immediately. On inhaling enough carbon monoxide, a person could simply fall unconscious and never wake up. Mild carbon monoxide poisoning, however, is more common and can cause a whole range of short and long-term health problems.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be very similar to that of a flu-like virus – however, carbon monoxide poisoning does not cause high temperatures like a virus would. Some of the symptoms to watch out for are as follows:

  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
  • Sore throat and dry cough, difficulty breathing
  • Confusion and drowsiness
  • Chest pains
  • In more severe cases, seizures and unconsciousness may occur

If you suspect that you could be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important to take action immediately:

  • Stop using any appliance that could be causing the exposure
  • Ventilate the area
  • Seek advice from a doctor as soon as possible, bearing in mind that tests could be inaccurate if carried out too long after the exposure

How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be incredibly dangerous, so the focus should be on preventing it happening in the first place. There are many steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from the dangers of carbon monoxide:

Proper installation – make sure that any appliances you buy are correctly installed by a professional.

Regular servicing – be sure to have your appliances, such as your gas boiler, serviced annually. These safety checks are incredibly important and should never be missed. If you suspect your appliance has a fault, turn it off and have it checked by a professional as soon as possible.

Ventilation – ensure that any room containing a heating appliance is well ventilated, and never block up a vent. Make sure that chimneys are kept clean and unblocked.

Use a carbon monoxide detector – carbon monoxide detectors are arguably as important as smoke alarms. There are many kinds of carbon monoxide detector available on the market, ranging from the very basic to more advanced models that will sound an alarm if carbon monoxide is detected in the air. These detectors are a worthwhile investment for your family’s safety.

Be sure to choose detectors that have been tested to meet efficiency standards, and place one in each bedroom and in communal living areas to ensure that a leak would be quickly detected if it occurred.