Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas that has no colour, taste or smell. It can easily be inhaled without realising it. High levels can kill within minutes but it can also cause a range of health problems, from headaches and drowsines to lasting brain and nervous system damage.
The causes of carbon monoxide poisoning
The most common cause is when boilers or cookers are installed incorrectly or poorly maintained. Carbon monoxide can also build up in homes when flues, chimneys and vents are blocked. Lit barbecues emit carbon monoxide, and continue to do so once they're extinguished.
The most common symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain
Some people may also vomit.
The longer someone breathes in carbon monoxide, the worse the symptoms will get. They may lose their balance, vision and memory. There's also a good chance that, with high or prolonged exposure, they will fall unconscious or, at worst, die. This can happen within two hours if there's a lot of carbon monoxide in the air.
Other warning signs include other people in your house, flat or workplace experiencing similar symptoms, or symptoms disappearing when you leave home and returning when you come back.
What to do in an emergency
If your alarm goes off, or you spot other signs of carbon monoxide:
- Open doors or windows for ventilation and leave your home immediately
- Stop using all your cooking and heating appliances that use fuels such as gas, oil, wood, charcoal or coal. Seek immediate advice from your GP if you think you have carbon monoxide poisoning or, if urgent, call 999 for an ambulance
- Call the relevant emergency advice line: Gas emergency service (24 hours) 0800 111 999; Solid fuels (HETAS) 0845 634 5626; Oil (OFTEC) 0845 658 5080
- Call the landlord service on 01748 829100 and let them know what's happening
We carry out annual heating servicing in all our homes. This includes testing smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. It's very important you allow us to carry out the service to make sure your heating system is working properly.