Carbon Monoxide FAQ'S
What is carbon monoxide (CO) and how is it produced?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colourless, odourless, poisonous gas. It is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas. Products and equipment powered by internal combustion engine-powered equipment such as portable generators, cars, lawn mowers, and power washers also produce CO.
What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
Because CO is colourless, odourless, and otherwise undetectable to the human senses, people may not know that they are being exposed. The initial symptoms of low to moderate CO poisoning are similar to the flu (but without the fever). They include:
- Shortness of breath.
High level CO poisoning results in progressively more severe symptoms, including:
- Mental confusion.
- Loss of muscular coordination.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Ultimately death.
Symptom severity is related to both the CO level and the duration of exposure.
How can I prevent CO poisoning?
- Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to the manufacturer's instructions and local building regulations. Most appliances should be installed by qualified professionals. Have the heating system professionally inspected and serviced annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and complete disconnections, and loose connections.
- Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge, skill and tools. Always refer to the owner’s manual when performing minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning equipment.
- Never operate a portable generator or any other petrol/diesel engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space such as a garage, house, or other building. Even with open doors and windows, these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal levels.
- Install a CO alarm that meets the requirements of the current British or European safety standards. A CO alarm can provide some added protection, but it is no substitute for proper use and upkeep of appliances that can produce CO. Install a CO alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home.
- Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use in an enclosed area.
- Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or tent.
- Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open.
- Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes dryers to heat your home.
- Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room where people are sleeping.
- Do not cover the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with aluminum foil. Doing so blocks the combustion air flow through the appliance and can produce CO.
- During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances are in proper working order when renovations are complete.
What CO level is dangerous to my health?
The health effects of CO depend on the CO concentration and length of exposure, as well as each individual's health condition. CO concentration is measured in parts per million (ppm). Most people will not experience any symptoms from prolonged exposure to CO levels of approximately 1 to 70 ppm but some heart patients might experience an increase in chest pain. As CO levels increase and remain above 70 ppm, symptoms become more noticeable and can include headache, fatigue and nausea. At sustained CO concentrations above 150 to 200 ppm, disorientation, unconsciousness, and death are possible.
What should I do if my carbon monoxide detector goes off?
Turn off any gas appliances, open doors and windows.
Stop using the appliances and get them checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Gas Emergency line on 0800 111 999.