Carbon Monoxide – The Silent Killer

Carbon monoxide is often called a silent killer because you can’t see it, smell it or taste it and yet it can kill quickly with few warning signs. In England around 400 people each year are admitted to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning and there are around 40 deaths. It can also lead to permanent brain damage.

Any home that has gas appliances is at risk from the dangers of carbon monoxide and so it’s important for all householders to be aware of the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning and know how to prevent this harmful gas from occurring.

Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous substance that occurs when gas appliances are not working as intended. The problems can be caused by gas appliances that have not been fitted correctly or have not been repaired or maintained properly. If flues, chimneys or air vents are blocked, this can also cause carbon monoxide to occur.

It’s important that all your gas appliances are regularly serviced by a registered gas engineer to ensure that they are safe. You should also invest in carbon monoxide detectors for your home which will give you a warning if carbon monoxide occurs. Choose one that emits a noise when carbon monoxide is present – rather than ones that simply change colour as you might not notice this until it’s too late.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by breathing in the toxic gas – even in very small amounts. The carbon monoxide enters the blood stream and stops red blood cells from carrying oxygen. This lack of oxygen can kill quickly or can be very harmful to health when experienced over a longer period.

There are a number of symptoms which could indicate carbon monoxide poisoning. These include headaches, nausea, breathlessness and dizziness. If you notice that these symptoms occur when you are in the house or they get worse when you are at home it could be a sign of poisoning. However, it’s important to remember that many people die from carbon monoxide poisoning without noticing any symptoms so even if you feel well, it’s sensible to make sure your gas appliances are serviced regularly.

It’s important to remember that it’s not just gas appliances that can be a danger. Other forms of heating around the house such as wood burning fires can also create carbon monoxide, so even if you do not use gas, it’s worth investing in a carbon monoxide detector. Some people have even become unwell after using equipment such as camping stoves in enclosed spaces.

So remember – to keep you and your family safe from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Fit a good quality carbon monoxide detector with an alarm
  • Ensure gas appliances are serviced regularly
  • Replace faulty appliances
  • Be aware of the symptoms but don’t rely on them as an early warning of poisoning
  • Ensure you have adequate ventilation around cooking and heating appliances

If you suspect you have been exposed to carbon monoxide, it’s important to get fresh air and medical advice as soon as possible. Do not re-enter the building until it has been checked and approved by a qualified professional.

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