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Information on carbon monoxide

What is carbon monoxide and why is it a problem?

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless poisonous gas. It is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood do not burn fully. Appliances that are not maintained, damaged, or are incorrectly used or installed may produce higher levels of carbon monoxide than normal and become dangerous. Also, blocked flues and chimneys can stop the gas products from escaping, this means carbon monoxide and other gases build up in a room where it could be inhaled, with serious health effects and fatal consequences.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:

  • tiredness
  • drowsiness
  • headaches
  • giddiness
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • unable to think clearly

If you suffer from these symptoms and they could be caused by carbon monoxide, stop using all cooking and heating appliances, open windows and doors, leave the building and get urgent medical attention. Call a qualified engineer to check your appliances.

You can be at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning when you are asleep because you may not be aware of symptoms. Having a carbon monoxide alarm could wake you up and save your life. 

Avoiding carbon monoxide poisoning

Household appliances that are installed correctly and are well maintained should produce little carbon monoxide.

  • ensure that all cooking and heating appliances are installed and serviced regularly by registered engineers, for example engineers should be, Gas Safe (for gas appliances), HETAS (for coal fuelled appliances), OFTEC (for oil appliances)
  • do not attempt to install or service the appliance yourself
  • do not use poorly maintained appliances
  • make sure chimneys and flues are clean and not blocked and also ensure air vents are not covered
  • always make sure that enough fresh air can enter the room when an appliance is being used to provide air flow
  • fit a carbon monoxide alarm that meets European Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European mark such as a kite mark