What is CO poisoning?
Unsafe gas appliances can produce a highly poisonous gas called carbon monoxide (CO). It can cause death as well as serious long term health problems such as brain damage.
CO is produced by the incomplete burning of natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). This happens when a gas appliance has been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained. It can also occur if flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.
Oil and solid fuels such as coal, wood, petrol and oil can also produce carbon monoxide.
CO poisoning occurs when you breathe in the gas and it replaces oxygen in your bloodstream. Without oxygen, your body tissue and cells die. Even small amounts of the gas can cause CO poisoning, and long term effects can include paralysis and brain damage.
Remember the six main symptoms to look out for:
Being aware of the symptoms could save your life
CO symptoms are similar to those of flu, food poisoning, viral infections and fatigue. That’s why it’s quite common for people to mistake this very dangerous poisoning for something else.
Other signs that could point to CO poisoning:
What to do if you suspect CO poisoning
To find engineers who are qualified to investigate the presence of fumes, you can visit our Check a Business page. Enter your postcode. Under the ‘Select appliance type’ tab chose ‘Fumes Investigation’. Remember to click ‘Find’ to see the updated results.
The warning signs of a CO leak
Any of the following could be a sign of CO in your home:
Faulty appliances in your home can lead to CO poisoning. Get your gas appliances checked regularly to avoid this.
What can you do about it?
CO Alarm - A good second line of defence
Modern CO alarms are similar in design to smoke alarms (which do not detect CO) and can be purchased from around £15 at many major retail outlets including DIY stores and supermarkets. We do not recommend the use of 'black spot detector' warning strips - they are too easy to miss and won't alert you if you have a CO leak when you're asleep.
It’s advisable to fit an alarm in every room with a gas appliance, and when installing and siting the alarm make sure you refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, audible CO alarms have a battery life of up to 5 years. If you’re unsure which alarm to get, you can ask a Gas Safe registered engineer for advice.