What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide gas (CO) is a odourless, colourless, tasteless gas produced when a fuel is not burnt properly. It is completely invisible to human senses. The only way to detect CO is with an audible carbon monoxide alarm. The most common sources are faulty boilers, fires and cookers but other fuel burning appliances are also potential sources.
Everyone is at risk but some groups are more vulnerable than others; those with heart and respiratory problems, unborn babies, young children and older people.
4000 people go to A&E with suspected CO poisoning each year.
200 people are hospitalised each year
50 people dies each year in England and Wales due to CO poisoninh (estimated)
What are the symptoms of CO exposure?
Mild exposure: Headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue (often described as flu-like symptoms)
Medium exposure: Severe headache, drowsiness, confusion, fast heart rate
Extreme exposure: Unconsciousness, convulsions, cardiorespiratory failure, death
What should you I do if I suspect CO is present in my home?
Immediately open the doors and windows to ventilate, turn off your appliances and evacuate the premises. Do not re-enter until the alarm has stopped. In an emergency call National Gas Service on: 0800 111 999. If anyone is suffering effects of CO poisoning get medical help. Do not use the appliance until it has been checked by an expert.
How can I keep my family safe?
Here are 5 steps to improve your CO safety:
1. Fit an audible alarm
2. Have your appliances checked regularly.
3. Don't block ventilation
4. Know the signs around your appliances
5. Learn to recognise the symptoms
There are many brands alarm available with different features. Make sure your alarm has the following features:
Certification: Ensure your alarm complies with British Standards EN 50291 and carries a British Standards Kitemark.
Audible alarm: It is crutial that you have an audible alarm (rather than just a colour change indicator) which will sound an alarm when it detects CO. This is because you are most at risk when you are asleep.
Power source: You can buy mains wired alarms or battery powered units, Battery powered alarms with 'sealed for life' batteries mean you can simply fit the alarm and forget about it for the entire period of it's life (usually 7-10yrs)
Low battery warning: You need to know when to replace your batteries or unit so this is a must.
Digital CO display: This feature is important so it can give you an early heads up if low levels of CO are in the atmosphere before it gets to a concentration which triggers the alarm.
Where should I fit my alarm?
Ideally you should fit CO alarms in every room which contains a fuel-burning appliance between 1m and 3m from the source of carbon monoxide. Additional alarms can be located in bedrooms, relatively close to the breathing zones of occupants.
We now have fitted 3 CO alarms in our kitchen (gas hob), in our loft (boiler) and on the landing by the bedroom doors (to wake us if we are asleep). We are now protected from this deadly gas and will be shouting about the dangers of CO to make sure everyone we know has an alarm fitted.