Crack the COde!

We're the COdebreakers, and we're on a mission to raise awareness of carbon monoxide (CO) - and we need your support!

Take a look at the information below and help us 'Crack the COde'.

Carbon monoxide - the 'silent killer'

You can’t see it. You can’t smell it. You can’t taste it. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that is released when any fossil fuel that burns - not just gas - doesn't burn properly. This can happen when:

  • An appliance hasn't been fitted correctly

  • An appliance has been poorly maintained

  • A flue, chimney or vent is blocked

Breathing it in can make you unwell, and it can kill. If you suspect CO poisoning, you should call the National Gas Emergency Number - 0800 111 999.

In a medical emergency, don't delay, call 999 immediately.

CO poisoning happens when you breathe in even small amounts of this poisonous gas. Every year around 40 people die, 200 people are so affected they need to have a stay in hospital and 4,000 others need to have urgent medical attention as a result of CO poisoning.

Even low levels of exposure over a long period of time can cause serious health issues, such as lasting neurological damage.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

A headache is the most common symptom of mild CO poisoning. Other symptoms can include:

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting

  • Tiredness and confusion

  • Stomach pain

  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

Symptoms of CO poisoning can be similar to those of food poisoning and the flu. However, unlike flu, CO poisoning does not cause a high temperature (fever).

Ways to stay safe

Look out for the warning signs:

  • Gas appliances that are burning with a floppy yellow or orange flame that is normally crisp and blue

  • Extra condensation inside windows

  • Pilot lights in boilers frequently blowing out

  • Soot or yellow stains around appliances

Any of these could be sign of a problem.

Every year you should get your appliances serviced by a Gas Safe registered engineer - a list of Gas Safe registered engineers can be found on:

If you use solid fuel, make sure you get your chimneys and flues swept every year, too.

Get an audible alarm which is certified to British Standard BS EN 50291. These cost around £15 and you can buy them from your local DIY store, supermarket or energy supplier.

Remember, alarms are important but they're not a substitute for annual safety checks.




Outside your home

As we said earlier, it isn't just the gas appliances in your home that can produce CO.

Any fuel source such as coal, oil, wood, petrol or barbeque charcoal can also produce it.

So it's also important to be aware of CO if you are planning to stay in holiday accommodation, on a boat or at a campsite.

Never use a BBQ in an enclosed space such as a tent.

If you or someone you know is going camping this year, make sure you let them know about the dangers of CO.