Carbon Monoxide is known as the ‘silent killer’. This is because people are frequently unaware that they are affected by CO until it is too late and until they have become very sick. Gas appliances do not make any alarming noises when they are releasing CO, and there is no characteristic odour to the gas – victims simply breathe it in and fall ill, with dozens of unnecessary deaths occurring every year as a result.
Warning symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, nausea, tiredness, pains in the chest and stomach, and breathing difficulties. When people are asleep, they will not notice these symptoms, and their bodies may not wake them up to warn them that something is wrong; instead, they fall deeper and deeper into sleep as the carbon monoxide prevents oxygen from attaching itself to their blood and prevents their brain from acting normally. Those who are fortunate enough to survive can fall into a coma and develop brain damage they may never recover from.
Carbon Monoxide risks
Gas appliances are one of the most common causes of carbon monoxide-related injuries, with the Health and Safety Executive estimating that these lead to 14 carbon monoxide-related deaths in the UK every year. This does not mean that gas appliances are inherently risky – tens of millions of Brits use gas boilers, and very few of these will ever suffer from any ill-effects.
Some of the major issues that could put you at risk of CO poisoning include:
- Gas appliances that are installed or fitted badly
- Poorly-repaired gas appliances
- Appliances that have not had an annual gas safety check
- Appliances that are badly ventilated or have blocked flues
- Sleeping in the same room as a gas appliance
- Other common factors in CO deaths include indoor use of fuel-burning appliances, such as butane gas camping stoves and barbecues.
Carbon Monoxide Safety
In order to protect yourself, your loved ones and even your neighbours from deadly carbon monoxide:
- Never use a broken gas boiler or any other gas appliance you suspect is not working as it should be
- Know some of the key warning signs of carbon monoxide emission, including orange or yellow flames, sootiness, yellow staining around the appliance or unusually high levels of condensation
- Do not block flues, air vents, air bricks or any other ventilation system built into your home
- Have a gas appliance and boiler services every 12 months
- Buy an audible carbon monoxide alarm and fit this in every room containing a fuel-burning appliance
- Never use items such as barbecues and camping stoves indoors
- Check the credentials of anyone who comes to service or repair your gas appliances – all engineers who work on gas appliances should be a member of the Gas Safe Register
- If you suspect there is carbon monoxide present in your home, open all your doors and windows, turn off your gas supply, leave your home if you can do so safely, and call the 0800 111 999 to report a gas emergency
- Don’t attempt any boiler repairs yourself – doing so may actually be illegal, as you must be Gas Safe Registered to work on any gas fitting or flue. Attempting to repair gas appliances without the right training and knowledge can easily lead to disaster.
Of course, if you have a gas appliance breakdown, boiler breakdown cover and annual service plan with 247 Home Rescue, you’ll never have to worry about these issues! Whenever our members’ gas appliances break down, they will just have to give us a call on our 24/7 claims hotline and we will send an engineer round the very same day.