Carbon Monoxide Awareness

Carbon Monoxide

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas that is colourless, odourless, and tasteless.  Being exposed to CO even in small levels can be dangerous and over 25 people die of carbon monoxide poisoning die every year in England & Wales alone.



The symptoms of being exposed to carbon monoxide are not always immediately obvious, especially with low levels of exposure.

The NHS lists these common symptoms to look out for:

  • Dizziness/ nausea
  • Stomach pain/ vomiting
  • Tiredness or confusion
  • Loss of breath of difficulty when breathing
  • Tension headaches

As these symptoms are often confused with the flu or food poisoning, many people exposed to carbon monoxide do not suspect anything else. It is extremely important to have a working carbon monoxide detector as the longer a person is exposed, the more severe the symptoms will become, and the risk of death becomes more likely.

With higher levels of exposure; loss of vision, memory and consciousness may occur. If you think you are being exposed to carbon monoxide, seek medical advice from your GP or immediately to the A&E (accident & emergency) department at your local hospital if you believe you have been exposed to higher levels.


Where does carbon monoxide come from?

Burning fuels such as gas, coal, and wood and produce carbon monoxide and so it is essential to ensure that such fuels are burnt in a well-ventilated area or if burnt in the home, that your chimney & flue are not blocked so the dangerous gas can escape. See the maintenance section for more details.

Common household appliances that are poorly maintained or installed incorrectly can also produce carbon monoxide. The most common include:

  • Gas fires
  • Water heaters
  • Cookers
  • Central heating system
  • Boilers


Appliance maintenance:

For those using our solid fuels in the home, here are some basic tips to ensure that your appliances are well maintained, and the household is safe.

Daily: After each use, ensure that the ash can in your solid fuel appliance has been cleaned.

Weekly: Ideally each week ensure that the flue ways at the rear of your boiler is cleaned to prevent build-up and blockages

Monthly: Every month, the throat plate of your room heater should be cleared.

Yearly: Each year, it is highly recommended that your chimney is swept, (twice yearly if you primarily burn bituminous coal)


Carbon monoxide detectors:

Purchasing a quality carbon monoxide detector is essential for those that use gas or solid fuel appliances in the home.  Just like your regular household smoke detector, they are easy to install and maintain.

Although most detectors are inexpensive, reliability is the key. For help finding out what CO detector is right for you, Which has an ideal article that goes into detail and reviews the most popular devices on the market.

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