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The silent killer: Confused.com warns of the dangers of carbon monoxide

a white carbon monoxide detector alarmDon’t become a victim – spot the signs of a CO leak

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can be fatal. And because the deadly gas has no colour, taste or smell, it’s difficult to detect, hence its nickname the ‘silent killer’. The worrying thing is that CO can leak into your home if you have a poorly maintained, unsafe boiler.

However, there are ways to spot signs of CO poisoning before it’s too late. Confused.com finds out more…

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is produced by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels. Inhaling the toxic gas can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

The most likely cause in your home is an incorrectly installed, or badly repaired, gas appliance, such as a boiler, gas fire or water heater. Problems can also occur if an appliance isn’t properly maintained.

Effects of carbon monoxide poisoning

Because carbon monoxide has no colour, taste or smell, you may only realise you’ve been exposed to it when you’re already feeling ill.

Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness/drowsiness
  • Feeling faint
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating
  • Shortness of breath

How to tell if there’s carbon monoxide in your home

If you haven’t experienced any physical symptoms but are concerned there’s a CO leak in your home, look out for:

  • An increase in condensation on the inside of your windows
  • Your pilot light blowing out
  • Yellow or orange flames instead of blue flames in your gas boiler
  • Yellow/brown staining or soot around, or on, your gas appliances

Get a Carbon Monoxide Detector

The most effective way to tell if you have a CO leak in your home is to buy a carbon monoxide detector. A basic alarm will only set you back around £5. Once you’ve got one, ensure that it remains in working order by checking it regularly.

A landlord’s responsibility

If you’re a tenant, you should know that landlords aren’t legally required to install a CO alarm. However, they are required to have appliance safety checks carried out annually by a Gas Safe registered engineer (the Gas Safe Register has replaced the CORGI gas register).

Landlords must make sure all fittings and repairs are carried out by qualified workmen, and provide tenants with a gas safety certificate to show everything’s been safety checked to the required standard.

Some landlords have been convicted of manslaughter where gas safety was ignored. In one particular case, a landlord, along with a handyman, was sentenced to five years in jail and ordered to pay £5,000 when two of his tenants died from carbon monoxide poisoning after a gas fire was incorrectly fitted.

What to do if you suspect there’s CO in your home

  • Turn off all gas appliances
  • Get fresh air immediately by opening external doors and windows
  • At your first chance, visit your doctor - they can do a blood test to see if you’re suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Get a Gas Safe registered engineer to inspect your gas appliances and flues

For more information on gas leaks, read Confused.com’s Guide on What To Do If You Smell Gas.