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Gas Appliances - Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998
Gas Cooking Appliances (Safety) Regulations 1989

You can’t see it, taste it or smell it but it can kill quickly and with no warning. Unsafe gas appliances produce a highly poisonous gas called carbon monoxide (CO). It can cause death as well as serious long term health problems such as brain damage.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous substance produced by the incomplete burning of gas and Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG).

This happens when a gas appliance has been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained. It can also occur if flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.

Oil and solid fuels such as coal, wood, petrol and oil can also produce carbon monoxide.

What is carbon monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when you breathe in even small amounts of the gas.
When you breathe in carbon monoxide, it gets into your blood stream and prevents your red blood cells from carrying oxygen. Without oxygen, your body tissue and cells die.

Levels that do not kill can cause serious harm to health when breathed in over a long period of time. Long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning include paralysis and brain damage. Such long term effects occur because many people are unaware of unsafe gas appliances and subsequent gas leaks.

How do I avoid a carbon monoxide leak in my premises?

Your premises may show signs of carbon monoxide. Any one of the following could be a sign that there is carbon monoxide in your premises:

The flame on your cooker should be crisp and blue. Lazy yellow or orange flames mean you need to get your cooker checked

Soot or yellow/brown staining around or on appliances 

Pilot lights that frequently blow out 

Increased condensation inside windows 

If you have a faulty appliance, it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Get it checked as soon as possible by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

Why should I get a carbon monoxide alarm?

Because carbon monoxide has no taste, smell or colour. Gas Safe Register strongly recommends you fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm in your home.

While an alarm will alert you to carbon monoxide in your home, it is no substitute for using a Gas Safe registered engineer.

A carbon monoxide alarm looks similar to a smoke alarm and is very easy to fit by following the manufacturer’s instructions. You can purchase a carbon monoxide alarm for under £20 at your local DIY store, supermarket or from your energy supplier.

Before purchasing a carbon monoxide alarm, always make sure it is officially approved to EN 50291. It must have a British or European approval mark on it, such as a Kitemark.

You are particularly at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping, as you may not be aware of early carbon monoxide symptoms until it’s too late.

Do not use the ‘black spot’ detectors that change colour when carbon monoxide is present if people are likely to be sleeping.

What are the Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Remember the six main symptoms to look out for:

loss of consciousness 

Being aware of the symptoms could save lives.

Carbon monoxide symptoms are similar to flu, food poisoning, viral infections and simply tiredness. That’s why it’s quite common for people to mistake this very dangerous poisoning for something else.

Other signs that could point to carbon monoxide poisoning:

Symptoms only occur when you on your premises

Symptoms disappear or get better when you leave the premises and come back when you return 

Others in your premises are experiencing symptoms (including your pets) and they appear at a similar time 

 What should I do if someone is experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and leave the house

See your doctor immediately or go to hospital - let them know that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. They can do a blood or breath test to check 

If you think there is immediate danger, call the Gas Emergency Helpline 

Get a Gas Safe registered engineer to inspect your gas appliances and flues to see if there is a dangerous problem 

Landlords and Holiday Lets

Gas Safe have produced a useful leaflet for tenants and holiday makers which can be made available in the accommodation.  Tenants are better informed and more able themselves to determine if a problem exists and to alert landlords as appropriate.

A carbon monoxide alarm is also required for coal and wood-burning fires and oil-fired boilers.

Contact us to help you conduct a full risk assessment of your premises

Additional Reading:

Gas Installation and Maintenance
Gas Heaters
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

A Guide to Landlord's Duties under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations

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