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Carbon Monoxide: What Are The Dangers?

All domestic gas appliances including boilers and gas fires can produce carbon monoxide (CO), a highly dangerous gas that’s poisonous when inhaled by people and pets alike. Colourless, odourless and tasteless, carbon monoxide is often dubbed the “silent killer”, as its common for homeowners to be completely unaware of exposure.

Carbon monoxide is produced when natural gas is only partly combusted. It’s therefore associated to gas appliances that have been fitted poorly, damaged or seldom maintained. Carbon monoxide is also produced and associated with blocked flues and chimneys and so it’s recommended that your whole central heating system is inspected annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

How Does Carbon Monoxide Affect Your Body?

Carbon monoxide displaces oxygen found in the blood and deprives vital organs. Large quantities of carbon monoxide can cause you to lose consciousness and even suffocate. Here are some of the main symptoms to look out for associated with CO poisoning;

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Breathlessness
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness

During periods of prolonged or high exposures, symptoms may worsen and include;

  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Collapsing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Organ failure
  • Death

What to Do if You Suspect Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s advised that you switch off your gas mains and ventilate your home as soon as possible. You should also seek the attention of a medical professional who’ll be able to carry out a blood test to diagnose CO poisoning and recommend treatment. If your doctor or nurse confirms that you have been exposed to CO, when you’re well enough again, you should contact a Gas Safe registered heating engineer to inspect your gas appliance.

It is possible and most beneficial however to ensure that your health isn’t compromised in any way at all. Installing a CO alarm in your property will allow you to highlight a carbon monoxide leak as soon as it presents itself, avoiding any unnecessary trips to the hospital. There are also a number of tell tail signs that carbon monoxide may be in your home, including;

  • Usually crisp blue flames from your gas hob or boiler pilot light are instead burning a limp yellow coloured flame.
  • Dark staining on or around your gas appliances
  • A weak boiler pilot light that blows out frequently
  • Condensation around your windows