Known as ‘the silent killer’, accidental carbon monoxide poisoning causes around 60 deaths in the UK every year throughout England and Wales. One in 10 adults in Britain has experienced some degree of carbon monoxide poisoning in their homes. When it is breathed in, it renders your body unable to carry oxygen, causing vital functions to slowly fail.
How it happens
A carbon monoxide leak can be caused by a variety of factors, with some more common than others. It’s often caused by a fault in gas-operated systems or appliances, such as ovens, gas fires, boilers and portable generators.
Identifying carbon monoxide leaks
Carbon monoxide has no smell, no colour and no taste which make it incredibly difficult to detect. There is no way that you will be able to tell you are inhaling it, aside from any physical symptoms you experience.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
It can be difficult to tell if you’re being affected by excessive carbon monoxide as the symptoms aren’t distinguishable from many other illnesses. Those affected often suffer from headaches, tiredness, nausea, stomach pains and shortness of breath, similar to those attributed to flu-like symptoms, without the burning temperature. If there’s an abundance of carbon monoxide in the air, you are likely to lose consciousness within 2 hours.
Carbon monoxide alarms
It is a legal requirement for landlords to have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted in every one of their properties and it’s strongly recommended for all homeowners. You should test your carbon monoxide alarm on a monthly basis to ensure it’s working as required. It’s recommended that if the batteries aren’t sealed into the alarm, these should be replaced annually. Test your alarm by pressing the ‘test’ button, which should then emit a series of beeps.
Your next steps
Having identified carbon monoxide in your home, your next steps should be to turn all appliances off, open your doors and windows, leave the house and seek medical attention for all those in the property. You can also seek further guidance from the National Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999.