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 colourless, odourless, tasteless, 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, your emergency numbers are: 0800 111 999 (gas) 0845 6014406 (coal) 08456 585080 (oil) In a medical emergency, don't delay, call 999 immediately.
What is Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning?
CO poisoning happens when you breathe in even small amounts of this poisonous gas. Every year 40 people die and over 4,000 are injured as a result of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Even low levels of exposure, over a long period, can cause serious health issues.
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
A headache is the most common symptom of mild carbon monoxide poisoning. Other symptoms can include:
- nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
- tiredness and confusion
- stomach pain
- shortness of breath and difficulty breathing
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be similar to those of food poisoning and the flu. However, unlike the flu, carbon monoxide poisoning does not cause a high temperature (fever).
Ways to stay safe
Look out for gas appliances that are burning with a floppy yellow or orange flame that is normally crisp and blue, extra condensation inside windows, pilot lights on boilers frequently blowing out; and soot or yellow stains around appliances. All these could be signs of a problem. Once a year, you should employ a registered installer to service all appliances powered by any fuel that burns, and sweep your chimneys and flues. 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
It isn't just the gas appliances in your home that can produce CO. Any appliance powered by coal, oil or wood can also produce CO. 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 heading off to a festival this summer, play iFEST to increase your awareness and for a chance to win prizes. http://www.gdngames.co.uk/
Learn more about our community outreach work surrounding CO in conjunction with the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama by watching the video about our award winning Carbon Monoxide Puppet