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Now is the time to check your home against carbon monoxide poisoning

November 2016

gas check

Most of us are very aware of fire in the home. Things aren’t as dangerous now as they were in generations past when candles and oil lamps were used every night and there were often live fires in every room. But the new hazard of course is electrical wiring and sadly house fires are still a common occurrence.

But few of us ever give any consideration to problems with carbon monoxide.  The name itself is often confused with carbon dioxide which is a very different gas. Carbon dioxide is naturally present in the atmosphere, almost all life is dependent on plants getting carbon dioxide and when we breathe out, the mixture includes carbon dioxide.

Carbon monoxide, despite its similar name, is very different indeed. In fact, that reduction in the oxide numbers make it a very poisonous gas indeed.  Maybe that is why sometimes it is not taken seriously enough.

But every year there are around 50 deaths in the UK from carbon monoxide poisoning, and many more people suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning are treated in hospital every year.

Breathing it in can not only make you unwell but can kill you.  Surprisingly and frighteningly, carbon monoxide is also the most common form of household poison!

Carbon monoxide (CO) gas occurs when any fuel burning appliance has not been installed properly, or if maintenance has been poor or if there is bad ventilation. This can include boilers, gas and open fires, central heating systems, water heaters and yes, even cookers. Anywhere where a carbon based fuel such as gas, oil, wood or coat, is burned.

A few key danger signs can include yellow or orange flames rather than blue flames (except in specially fuel effect fires and some flueless appliances); soot or staining around appliances or fireplaces or a pilot light that keeps blowing out.

But of course rather than wait for a danger sign, the best thing is to ensure you minimise risk by having all the fuel appliances regularly services by professionals. This includes the chimney and flue to ensure there is no blockage. Cars give out carbon monoxide, so of course never leave them running in the garage and never shut the garage door when the car is still running.  Petrol fuelled lawn mowers can also be a problem if you run them in perhaps a shed.

Good ventilation is key so that any carbon monoxide given off is dispersed quickly well away from your lungs. This is the reason why it can also be dangerous to use a barbecue in a confined area, perhaps inside a caravan or a tent.

Today more and more people are fixing carbon monoxide alarms in their homes and landlords are required by law to include them in their properties.  They can be useful of course but they are not a substitute for regular maintenance of your fuel burning appliances.

Now that winter is coming, make sure all your appliances have been fully checked.

There is some useful information here.

 


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