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How to protect your Home from Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (or CO - it's made of carbon and oxygen) is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas that has the added disadvantage of being fatally toxic to both humans and animals. You can't tell it's there but you can die from carbon monoxide poisoning in just a few minutes.

Where does Carbon Monoxide come from?

Carbon Monoxide is produced by combustion. It can be released when a fuel such as gas, coal, oil, petrol or wood doesn't burn properly, usually due to a lack of air. Very small amounts of carbon monoxide are normal. The gas is naturally present in our atmosphere, and is also produced by our bodies.


The most common causes of dangerous CO levels in homes are faulty gas appliances (cookers, fires etc.) and faulty central heating systems. Blocked chimneys and flues contribute to the problem by not allowing the gas to escape.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Breathlessness
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness

These symptoms are common to a number of illnesses including flu, viral infections and food poisoning, so monitor if they are only occurring in your house, and if other family members or pets are suffering from similar symptoms.

949777_88317994 A headache can be one of the first signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

What to do if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Get fresh air immediately. Open the doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and get out of the house.
  • Seek medical attention immediately. CO poisoning can usually be detected by a blood or breath test.
  • Have your home checked thoroughly before you return and if you think there is a major problem or gas leak, call the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999.

High levels of carbon monoxide in the home can cause poisoning over a number of days or weeks, which is why it is important to monitor any symptoms closely. Most people will fully recover from CO poisoning, but sometimes there can be lasting adverse effects. Extreme levels of carbon monoxide can cause death in only minutes, which is why it is important to take measures to protect your home and family from carbon monoxide.

How to protect against and prevent CO poisoning.

1340839_82326988 Blue means safe. Lazy yellow or orange flames in cookers and pilot lights can often indicate a problem.
  • Fit a carbon monoxide detector - ones with audible alarms are best as they will attract your attention immediately if there is a problem.
  • Don't block outside vents and check to make sure that overgrown plants aren't blocking them from the outside.
  • Check that heating equipment, chimneys and ventilation pipes are in good condition.
  • Don't use barbecues indoors or too close to an open window or vent. You also shouldn't burn fuel (or disposable barbecues) in tents, fishing houses, garages or boat cabins.
  • Never leave a car, mower, generator or other fuel burning appliance running in a garage, especially in a garage which is attached to a house.
  • Make sure gas appliances and central heating systems are inspected yearly.
  • Have chimneys and flues cleaned regularly - especially if you have a log burning fire.

For further information or to find a gas safe registered engineer or business, visit the Gas Safe Register. More tips and information can be found at the National Grid.


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