Carbon Monoxide - A Risk to Take Seriously
If you use gas, wood, oil, or coal as fuel for your home, you and your family may be at risk for carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Carbon monoxide is extremely difficult to detect because it is colourless and has no smell or taste. Although carbon-based fuels are safe to use under proper conditions, these fuels become quite dangerous when they do not burn completely and emit CO into the air.
The haemoglobin in the blood connects with carbon monoxide that is breathed into the body. Haemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying portion of the red blood cells. Carbon monoxide restricts the haemoglobins ability to carry oxygen throughout the body, and the bodys tissues, organs, and cells begin to die. Brain damage, paralysis and even death can occur from only small amounts of carbon monoxide that are breathed in over long periods of time.
Someone with carbon monoxide poisoning may incorrectly diagnose the symptoms as being caused by another ailment. The symptoms of CO poisoning are very similar to common illnesses, such as viral infections, the flu, food poisoning, and fatigue: nausea, vomiting, headaches, tiredness, and stomach pains. Other symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include problems with vision, trouble breathing, erratic behaviour, and chest pains.
Gas appliances and flues are two of the most common causes of carbon monoxide in the home. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that about twenty UK citizens die yearly as a result of CO poisoning. A gas appliance or flue that is improperly installed or poorly maintained is likely to emit carbon monoxide fumes. Any area in the home with a carbon fuel-burning apparatus needs to have excellent ventilation in order to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The best protection against CO poisoning is being prepared. You must be aware that wherever there is carbon-based fuel being used, the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning exists. Everyone in the home needs to know the dangers and signs of CO in the air. A properly installed carbon monoxide alarm can give you an early warning of the presence of carbon monoxide. Make sure your alarm has a British or European approval mark and complies with British Standard EN 50291. These audible alarms are especially useful if carbon monoxide begins to fill the air at night while everyone is asleep.
Insist on a CORGI-registered technician when you install a flue or gas appliance in your home. CORGI-registered installers are trained to set up your appliance or flue accordingly to safe procedures. Once your appliance or flue is installed, have it inspected once a year by a CORGI-registered professional to make sure everything is operating properly and there are no safety risks to your family from carbon monoxide. To prevent CO problems from your flue, hire a professional chimney sweep to thoroughly clean it every year.
This page has been written with contributions from plumbers from Essex and plumbing and heating engineers from Westminster. Several of the company's experienced plumbers from Northamptonshire have worked on similar issues as well as some of our qualified plumbers from Croydon and our Balham Gas Safe engineers.
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