What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide is a gas, which is highly poisonous both to people and animals. But it can be difficult to recognise because it has:
If your appliances burn any fossil fuel such as gas, coal or oil, carbon monoxide can get into your home if they have not been fitted properly or serviced regularly.
Gas appliances need air too
Gas appliances need air to burn safely. With enough air, burning domestic fuels produce carbon dioxide and water in safe amounts. These products are normally taken away by a chimney or flue.
However, if there is too little air, carbon monoxide can be produced. This can also happen if the chimney or flue is blocked or obstructed. Look out for the danger signs.
If you ignore these, it could be fatal.
The Danger Signs
Stains, soot or discolouring around a gas fire or at the top of a gas water heater may mean that the flue or chimney is blocked.
The flame on your gas fire or water heater should not be yellow or orange.
There should not be a strange smell when the gas appliance is on.
If you are at all worried about a gas appliance, take the advice outline here and seek help. Do not delay and put yourself or others in danger.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Symptoms are vague and can be similar to those caused by other illnesses - even a cold or flu. But if anyone in your house has any of the following symptoms after using a gas appliance, go to your doctor:
Unexplained headaches, chest pains, or muscular weakness
Sickness, diarrhoea or stomach pains
Sudden dizziness when standing up
Stop using the appliance immediately and do not use it again until it has been checked by a fitter registered with the organisation called Gas Safe.
Most modern water heaters are room sealed. This means that waste products cannot get into the room. However, some older water heaters with open flues still exist, particularly in rented accommodation. You should follow the safety measures below when you use the appliance, or contact a fitter registered with Gas Safe for advice on how to use the appliance safely. All water heaters of this type (open flue), should be serviced at least once a year. Make sure that your landlord arranges this.
Using your water heater safely
Make sure your bathroom is well ventilated. Never block or obstruct air vents.
Always open the bathroom door or window when you are running water.
Turn the water heater off before you get in the bath. Never run more water once you are in the bath.
Do not run an unflued instantaneous water heater for longer than five minutes at a time. They are not intended to be used for filling baths, showers or washing machines.
If you are concerned in any way about the appliance, stop using it immediately and seek help.
Action you should take
Your landlord has a responsibility to make sure that your home is safe.
Unfortunately, some landlords ignore advice with tragic consequences. However, safety is everyone's responsibility and there are certain things that you can do to make sure that everyone in your home is safe.
Ask the landlord, accommodation office or agency when the gas appliances were last checked by someone qualified. If the last check was more than 12 months ago, ask for a check to be done.
Never block any vents, because you will be shutting out the air your appliances need to burn safely. Check that nothing is obstructing outside grilles, flues or air-bricks.
Never use a gas appliance, which you suspect may not be working properly. Never try to alter or repair a gas appliance yourself.
Act without delay if you spot any of the danger signals. If your landlord refuses your requests for servicing, report your concerns to the local authority. Remember that the law is on your side.
Even if you have a responsible landlord and your appliances are perfectly safe, expertly installed, and serviced regularly, accidents will still happen if you do not use the appliances properly.
Always follow the instructions and only use appliances for what they were designed for. For example, do not use a cooker to heat a room.
When you are looking for accommodation, use these details as a checklist.
What your landlord should do
There are three main ways to reduce the risk from carbon monoxide:
Only buy appliances which have been tested for safety. When you buy a second-hand appliance, make sure the dealer gives you a guarantee.
CORGI has been replaced by an organization called Gas Safe - use a registered installer to fit appliances. This is not only common sense - it is also the law.
Make sure gas appliances are checked and maintained annually by a Gas Safe registered installer.
Second hand appliances
Take care if you are buying second-hand appliances. Make sure that the dealer will give you a written guarantee and always ask for a copy of the user instructions. If you have any difficulties, contact your local Trading Standards Office.
Have the appliance fitted professionally by a Gas Safe registered installer.
Gas Safe: For details of a registered gas installer in your area, telephone Gas Safe on 0800 408 5500.
Gas Safe Website: www.gassaferegister.co.uk (opens new window)
Gas Consumers Council: For details of your local branch, look in your telephone book under GAS, or on the back of your gas bill.
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