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What is Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – It’s Alarming.

Whilst fitting a smoke alarm in most homes is now common practice, people don’t realise the importance of installing a Carbon Monoxide Alarm.

A change to Scottish Legislation in October 2013 makes it compulsory to fit Carbon Monoxide Alarms in properties when new Gas Appliances or Boilers are installed.

What is Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can be fatal or cause permanent damage to your health. CO is produced when carbon fuels don’t burn completely. It has no smell or taste and, in large quantities, it can kill very quickly. The UK statistics show approx 40 deaths and 7000 admissions to A&E each year as a result of CO Poisoning.

Where does CO come from?

CO can be produced in any fuel-burning appliance that is not properly maintained.

Sources can include:

  • cookers
  • heaters
  • gas tumble dryers
  • hot water heaters
  • fireplaces.

Danger signs that CO may be leaking include:  

  • yellow or orange flames where there should normally be blue ones
  • sooty stains on the walls around fires and water heaters.

You could also be poisoned by CO if you share a wall or chimney with a house that has a CO leak, even if your own house does not have one.

What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?

Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, tiredness and nausea (feeling sick). Some of these symptoms can be mistaken for flu and other common viruses, or even food poisoning. If someone in your household suffers from these symptoms while they are at home but feels fine elsewhere, they may be suffering from CO poisoning.

What can we do to reduce the risk of CO poisoning?

One important thing you can do to protect yourself and family from this silent killer is to get a CO alarm approved to BS EN 50291. Fit it according to manufacturer’s instructions.

After installation, ensure you test the CO Alarm with a test gas and not just by pressing the test button.

The major mistake people make when testing their CO alarm is not realising that pressing the test button on the alarm only checks that the battery, buzzer and electronics are working and not the gas sensor itself. Recent research has shown that 45% of CO alarms already installed may no longer be detecting gas. This is because the gas sensor can stop working either due to a fault in the product or if the filter on the sensor gets blocked through household pollutants like cooking fumes and cigarette smoke.

Therefore, it’s really important to test the sensor in your CO alarms, both on installation and then every year after.

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