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Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in the Home

By David Holmes on July 6, 2009

CO2 detectorCaused by the incomplete burning of all carbon based fuels, Carbon Monoxide, otherwise known as CO is not only tasteless, colourless and odourless, it is also incredibly poisonous. Fuels that can create CO include oil, coal, wood and gas, and are perfectly safe to use, it is only in the case of them burning poorly that they produce the excess harmful CO.

Carbon Dioxide is absorbed into the body by the air we breathe, and harms us by preventing the blood in our systems from providing essential oxygen to our organs, tissues and cells. This is because it “tricks” the body into putting itself into the spaces in the blood where oxygen should be.
According to information provided by the HSE, around 20 people per year die from CO poisoning primarily caused by gas consuming appliances and their flues which have not been correctly installed originally, maintained or in a poorly ventilated area. There are even more cases of people being harmed by COs from breathing it in over a long period of time, such as brain damage and paralysis in the worst case.

How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide

The dangers of Carbon Monoxide in the home can be decreased significantly by following some simple rules, these include:
Using a Gas Safe registered installer whenever a gas appliance is installed in the home. These include gas fires, as well as boilers and central heating systems, and when required, must have a flue installed.

Servicing all flues and carbon based fuel appliances in the home regularly to make sure that not faults have occurred.

Keeping the area in which your gas appliance is located well-ventilated at all times, ensuring no flues are blocked or vents obscured.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoining Symptoms

Many of the early symptoms of Carbon Monoxide (CO) are often mistaken for the symptoms of other common ailments and are ignored by many, such as viral infections and flu, as well as food poisoning or simple just feeling tired and run down. These symptoms include:

  • Feeling Tired
  • Recurring Headaches
  • Giddiness
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Odd Pains in the Chest
  • Breathlessness and Shortness of Breath
  • Pains in the Stomach
  • Odd and Erratic Behaviour and Mood Swings
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurring of Vision or other Visual Problems

If you experience any or many of these symptoms and are worried about CO poisoning, it is essential that you seek medical advice urgently, either from you own GP or at an accident or emergency department. A breath test or blood test is essential to confirm or renounce the presence of CO in the body, but CO is known to quickly leave the body and blood within four hours so tests are known not be inaccurate if taken after this time. If you require any more information about CO poisoning and its symptoms, visit the NHS direct website, or telephone 0845 4647 for advice.

What Should I Do Now?

Having a working, audible CO detector in the home is vital not only for piece of mind, but also to warn you if there is a build-up of the deadly CO gas. Regularly check your CO detector to make sure that it is functioning correctly, and if you have any doubts then replace it immediately.