carbon monoxide awareness

From October 1st, the Scottish government will make it compulsory for carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted when new or replacement boilers, heaters or stoves are fitted. This will be a change to current building regulations. Building firms will be required to put alarms in new builds. An audible alarm is the only way to protect people from this tasteless, odourless and invisible gas that is known as the “silent killer”. It has been reported that in the UK, at least 50 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year and many more are treated in hospital. This “silent killer” can have devastating effects on peoples’ lives every year; it can kill quickly without warning because it is undetectable. Carbon monoxide (CO) can be generated from fires, furnaces, hot water heaters, cooking equipment, generators etc. CO poisons the body by bonding to the hemoglobin and is 250 times stronger than oxygen, that is why it is so potent.

The HSE strongly recommends the use of CO alarms to give people advance warning of CO in the property. However, alarms should not be regarded as a replacement for proper maintenance and safety checkups by a qualified gas engineer. Carbon monoxide alarms are currently not a legal requirement. However, there are regulations that need to be adhered to i.e the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 Approved Code of Practice and guidance. This Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) relates to regulations in the use of gas systems and appliances in commercial and domestic settings. The code has been approved by the HSE and gives practical advice on how to comply with the law. The code has a legal status and to prevent  prosecution, the relevant sections of the Code must be complied with. The regulations place responsibilities on those working in the gas industry, including those installing, servicing, maintaining and doing regular checks on appliances and fittings.

Indications of carbon monoxide presence

  •         Yellow or orange rather than blue flames (accept fuel effect fires that display this flame)
  •         Soot or yellow brown staining around appliances
  •         Increased condensation on windows
  •         Pilot lights that blow out frequently

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

  • Breathlessness, headaches, nausea, loss of consciousness
  • Pains in chest or stomach
  • Eratic behavior
  • Visual problems

What to do

  • Call the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999 and switch off appliance
  • Try to ventilate the area and seek medical assistance

Prevention of CO poisoning

  • All fuel burning including oil and gas appliances must be checked regularily by a trained professional. Flues and chimneys must be in good condition, clean and not blocked.
  • It is best to choose appliances that vent their fumes to the outside if possible
  • One should not use a gas oven to heat the home, even for a short time
  • One should try not to use a unvented gas or kerosene space heater, and if necessary, they should be used in a very ventilated area
  • Charcoal grills should never be used in doors, even in a fireplace
  • Battery operated CO alarms or CO alarms with battery backup should be installed in the home
  • A knowledge of the symptoms of CO poisoning should be familiar to all. Symptom severity is related on the amount of CO in the air and the length of exposure


Sources    bbc   hse   itv   epa

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