The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) today lent its support to Carbon Monoxide (CO) Awareness Day by reminding homeowners and landlords of the dangers of CO and the simple steps that can be taken to protect themselves and others from harm.
Geoffrey Podger, HSE Chief Executive, said: “Encouraging public understanding is an important weapon in cutting the number of people killed or made seriously ill each year as a result of CO poisoning. Today’s awareness day is key to achieving this and communicating the message that if appliances are not properly installed and adequately maintained by a competent CORGI-registered installer, the gas may not burn properly meaning potentially deadly CO fumes are released .”
You cannot see, smell or taste CO fumes leaving anyone exposed feeling unwell. In the worst situations, CO can kill without warning in just hours.
Supporting the day is Sian and Colin Goodson whose family became ill when they were exposed to CO from a poorly ventilated boiler. The Bristol couple moved into their house in October 2005, where a boiler had already been installed several years earlier. Mrs Goodson explained what then happened at a family gathering in December 2005.
“My husband’s parents, brother and sister came to stay with us the night before the funeral of his grandmother and on the morning of the funeral we all had showers. There was no warning – such as a strange smell or taste – we simply all started to feel ill and faint and my eight-month old baby was unusually sleepy. Luckily, Colin and his brother quickly realised that something was wrong and we all got out of the house just in time, although my son Archie had passed out by this point. Thankfully, the emergency services arrived almost immediately and we all spent the day in hospital on high flow oxygen because of the CO levels in our blood.
“We found out later that the very old boiler had suddenly packed up – presumably due to pressure put on it by the large number of people showering – and my main regret is that we hadn’t got round to having it serviced since we moved in. So my main piece of advice to anyone hearing our story is ‘get your boiler serviced regularly’ – it might cost you your life if you don’t.”
In addition to getting appliances checked, it is also important to ensure they are used correctly. When used, appliances must have access to a good supply of fresh air: CO is produced when there isn’t enough air for complete burning of the fuel.
In addition, never use a gas appliance if you think it’s not working properly. Signs to look out for on boilers, fires and cookers include:
- yellow or orange flames (except for fuel-effect fires which display this colour flame);
- soot or stains around the appliance; and
- a pilot light that frequently blows out.
Approved CO detectors are strongly recommended, although these must not be used as a substitute for regular checks and servicing by a CORGI-registered installer.
Symptoms of CO poisoning can include tiredness, drowsiness, headaches and breathlessness. If you believe CO may be causing you problems seek urgent advice.