Leaving no smell and having no taste Carbon Monoxide is very dangerous and toxic. Conventional gas fire or boiler operation produces harmless gases but lack of oxygen can result in Carbon Monoxide production. The standard flue gases from a boiler, or other gas appliance such as a gas fire, contain Carbon Dioxide, this is displaced by Carbon Monoxide when the oxygen levels are reduced.
Following the adoption of regular boiler servicing and regulations governing ventilation levels deaths from Carbon Monoxide have been held at 30 per annum although there are many more injuries from poisoning.
Can I look at my gas appliances to see if carbon monoxide could be a problem?
If you see stains, soot or coloration on or near gas boilers, fires and water heaters this could indicate that you have a potential problem. Inspecting gas pilot lights can give early warning of a lack of oxygen in the boiler as the colour of the pilot light may change from blue to yellow. If the pilot light in your system starts burning yellow you should have the boiler serviced by a trained engineer without delay.
How do I protect my family from Carbon Monoxide and potential poisoning?
Bad ventilation resulting in lack of oxygen leads to the production of poisonous carbon monoxide. On the assumption that there are no design faults in the ventilation of your boiler, frequent boiler and gas appliance servicing will help to avoid any problems which could lead to the production of carbon monoxide.
Any engineer you contract to service your gas appliances should be CORGI-registered which will ensure that they have the training required to complete the task to the required standards. Carbon monoxide detectors can give a warning of abnormal carbon monoxide levels, models with a loud alarm are the most effective at warning the inhabitants of the home.
From 1 June 2008 new regulations will be introduced regarding open flue boilers. From that date any open flue boiler installation which has less than 90% of the recommended ventilation volumes will be considered a risk.
Air ventilation bricks and panels should be kept clear and checked throughout the year to make sure that the planned air flow is maintained to your gas appliances. Gas appliances and boilers may not be used in the summer months but air vents can become obstructed at this time through the growth of plants and vegetation in the garden, this is a potential problem which you should keep in mind. If ventilation is provided through a chimney this should be inspected throughout the year to confirm that it has not become blocked by debris or even a nest created by birds.
What might I see if there was carbon monoxide in my home?
Act quickly and be very cautious if there are any signs of carbon monoxide inhalation in your family. It is better to act quickly if you spot any symptoms as prevarication could lead to a death.
Be decisive and look after your household straight away. Carbon monoxide poisoning can affect anyone irregardless of age. Pets, large and small, are also potential victims. You may observe common flu like symptoms in someone who is actually suffering from Carbon Monoxide inhalation with features like: -
urge to vomit
If you notice symptoms such as these when you have gas appliances in the home, stop using the appliance without delay, increase ventilation to the rooms, take any inhabitants outside and ensure that your gas appliances are inspected by a CORGI registered gas engineer.
If you rent a property it is your landlords legal responsibility to ensure that gas boilers and appliances are safe and therefore regularly serviced. Whilst this is factually true do not entrust your safety to this legal responsibility and as a minimum carry out some visual checks yourself.
Do the stores stock carbon monoxide detectors?
Recommended detectors are certified to British Standard and have an audible alarm. You will need to evacuate the room quickly if levels of carbon monoxide rise and you don’t want to have to keep checking the battery condition. As a result buy a detector with an audible, ear piercing alarm and a long battery life (aim for 5 years). Less effective detectors work on the principle where a coloured spot on a cardboard detector changes colour over time when carbon monoxide is detected. Chemical detectors have 6 month lifetimes and are not cost effective in the long run as they have to be replaced often. Chemical detectors lack of loud alarms prevents them from waking your family at night time if CO levels rise and this could be a major safety issue.
Both types of alarms are now commonly available in DIY stores.