The silent killer
Produced by unsafe gas appliances, carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas which can cause serious long term health problems or even death. If inhaled, CO replaces oxygen in your bloodstream, causing body cells and tissues to die. As the six main symptoms of CO poisoning (headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness) are similar to those of food poisoning, viral infections and fatigue, it's common to mistake it for something else, so if suffering from any of these it's important to be aware that your home may have a gas leak.
If you suspect CO poisoning
If you think there may be a gas leak in your home and that you may be experiencing CO poisoning, the first thing you should do is to try and get fresh air; open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and leave the house. It's also essential to seek medical help immediately via your doctor or by going to hospital, mentioning that you suspect CO poisoning. If you think you may be in immediate danger you can also call the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999 and ask a Gas Safe Registered engineer to ensure your gas appliances and flues are safe.
Top gas safety tips
As part of Gas Safety Week's efforts to reduce the numbers of people dying from CO poisoning each year, the Gas Safe Register is providing the following tips to help you stay safe and warm in your homes this winter season:
- Only use a Gas Safe Registered Engineer to fix, fit and service your appliances. Find and check engineers at GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500.
- Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm, which will alert you if there is carbon monoxide in your home.
- Check gas appliances for warnings that they are not working properly e.g. lazy yellow flames instead of crisp blue ones, black marks/stains on or around the appliance and too much condensation in the room.
- Know the six signs of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning – headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness. Unsafe gas appliances can put you at risk of CO poisoning, gas leaks, fires and explosions.
- Have all gas appliances regularly serviced and safety checked every year. If you rent a home ask for a copy of the landlord’s current Gas Safety record.
- Check both sides of an engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card and make sure they are qualified for the work you need doing. This information can be found on the back of the card.