Carbon Monoxide or CO is a scary gas that has no odour, no colour and no visibly identifiable traits. Yet it is extremely harmful to the majority of living creatures; including us humans. It can kill.
The gas is produced when a fossil fuel is burnt. If correct combustion can be achieved, the quantity produced is relatively small and does not cause us problems; however. If that combustion process goes wrong or something happens which stops the management of the gas from taking place, things can spiral out of control very fast.
Carbon Monoxide literally suffocates the body. As you breath normally, you breath Oxygen, which your blood absorbs and transports to your organs to make you function. If you breath in too much Carbon Monoxide, the body will absorb the Carbon Monoxide instead of the Oxygen. As it has no benefit to your organs, they simply reject the gas, however… As the blood absorbs CO easier than Oxygen, your organs will begin to suffer with Oxygen starvation, until the point where they shut down and permanent damage sets in.
The most common effects and symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning are:
- Feeling sick
- Actually being sick
- Tiredness, often with minor confusion
- Stomach pains
- Difficulty breathing and breathlessness
As you can tell; the signs are often mistaken for flu-like or food poisoning. However, you won’t have a higher than normal body temperature at this stage unlike flu, as the poisoning takes hold you’ll experience:
- Further, more profound confusion
- Memory loss
- Lack of co-ordination
- Muscle pain and loss of fine motor skills (Being able to operate a pen, etc)
The poisoning will then normally finish with a complete shut down of the body:
- Raised heartbeat and chest pains leading to a heart attack
- Seizures as the brain struggles to manage it’s electrical nervous system
- Loss of consciousness which will often lead to death within minutes
Now, we don’t want to scare you. But we believe that you should be aware of the facts surrounding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. When you burn gas, you create Carbon Monoxide. However, it can be managed in a completely safe way by professional Registered Gas Installers (Like us). We manage this lethal by-product by ensuring it’s production is minimized and that what is produced through the combustion process is vented to the atmosphere at a level low enough to not cause us humans any harm.
There are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe from Carbon Monoxide and reduce the risks.
- Have an audible CO alarm installed near every fossil fuel burning appliance.
- Keep your gas appliances in good working order, ensure they are at least checked over by a Registered Installer at least once every year.
- Never try and fix a gas appliance yourself.
- Always use a Registered Gas Installer to work on your gas appliances; they would have undergone specialist training and assessment to ensure they know what they are doing.
- Look out for soot stains and yellow flames. If in doubt, call in the professionals.
- Never block any air vents or flues. These are vital to ensure correct combustion and that the gasses present can escape safely.
If you think you, your family or partner are experiencing some form of Carbon Monoxide poisoning, you should evacuate the property to fresh air; it’s likely that your symptoms will disappear within a short period of time as your body flushes the toxin from your bloodstream. You should then contact the Gas Emergency Service for natural gas on: 0800 111 999 or your gas supplier for LPG (The fire brigade will also be able to help; however they should only be contacted in a life or death situation; ie, someone is still inside the property and will need rescuing).
Medical advice should be sought if symptoms persist or in the event that high level CO exposure has occurred.