Known as the silent killer, carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless and poisonous gas. It is produced when gas does not burn properly. Exposure to CO can be fatal. Around 50 people die in the UK each year from CO poisoning. Older people and young children are particularly at risk.
Fuel gas is safe to use, but when gas does not burn properly, excess CO is produced. This can happen if gas appliances are badly installed or maintained.
Symptoms of CO poisoning
CO poisoning is sometimes confused with the flu. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, confusion and tiredness. Breathing in CO can result in loss of consciousness and death.
If you have any of these symptoms and believe CO may be involved, seek medical advice immediately.
Signs of a CO leak
You can't see, taste or smell CO, but there are signs that indicate CO is being produced
- Appliances that usually burn with blue flames are burning with yellow/orange flames
- Soot or yellow/brown staining around or on appliances
- Pilot lights that frequently blow out
- Increased condensation inside windows
How to prevent CO poisoning
- Ensure that all work on gas appliances is carried out by a Gas Safe certified installer
- Ensure that gas appliances and flues are serviced regularly by a Gas Safe certified installer
- If you live in rented accommodation, ask your landlord to provide you with a copy of the gas safety check certificate. They have a legal duty to carry these out
- Ensure that rooms with gas appliances are well-ventilated with fresh air and that chimneys or flues are clear
- Get a carbon monoxide detector. You can buy these from gas suppliers, DIY stores and certain high street shops.
If you think you have a CO leak
- Stop using the appliance immediately
- Ventilate the room - do not sleep in it
- Call the 24-hour National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999
- Contact a Gas Safe certified installer to make repairs