Carbon Monoxide

Modified on Wed, 13 Dec 2023 at 10:36 AM

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas which is given off when burning any fuel, including Gas, Oil, Wood, Coal or manufactured smokeless fuel. When using any of these fuels for domestic heating, CO gas normally passes harmlessly out of the top of the chimney or vent. However, if there is anything preventing this from happening such as a blocked or leaky chimney, the appliance is faulty, or if the ventilation is inadequate, CO gas could enter your home. Low level exposure to CO can make you feel unwell, at high levels it can prove fatal.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

You can’t see it, taste it or smell it, but CO gas can kill quickly, and without warning. Always remember the common warning symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  1. Headache
  2. Dizziness or Collapse
  3. Nausea
  4. Breathlessness
  5. Chest, Stomach or Muscle Pains
  6. Confusion or erratic behaviour
  7. Loss of consciousness

Pets can also exhibit signs of CO poisoning, which could include irritable behaviour, resisting entering the property, vomiting, uncoordinated movement, difficulty breathing, bright red lips or gums (cats and dogs)

If you suspect Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

  1. Get fresh air immediately
  2. Open the doors and windows and leave the house
  3. If possible, turn off or close down the appliance
  4. Seek immediate medical attention if anyone feels unwell or you have any concerns
  5. Contact your local Fire Brigade to check that exposure levels are at a safe level before re-entering the property
  6. DO NOT attempt to use the appliance again until it has been checked by a suitably qualified heating engineer
  7. Please note that simply trying a different type of fuel will not solve the problem

Protect against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

We recommend that you take the following steps to remove the risk to yourself and your family:

  • Fit an audible CO alarm in your property, positioned as per the manufacturers instructions and test regularly. Weekly is recommended
  • Ensure that your chimney is swept regularly by a qualified chimney sweep
  • Ensure that the fire has adequate ventilation at all times.  Do Not cover or block outside vents such as air bricks and check that overgrown plants are not covering them either
  • Use only HETAS or OFTEC registered professionals to install and service solid fuel appliances
  • Have central heating systems and gas appliances inspected and serviced yearly by a qualified Gas Safe engineer

Barbecue Carbon Monoxide

It's also wise to take precautions to protect against CO poisoning when using a barbecue or outdoor burners. Although the risk is not as high as with a fireplace, it is still a risk not worth taking.

  • Be aware of wind direction when positioning the barbecue or fire. The smoke should not be able to blow directly in to peoples faces, or through doors or windows
  • Close doors or windows nearby to the barbecue or fire to avoid smoke filling your house
  • Avoid sitting or standing directly in the path of smoke

It is important to remember that ALL Fuels will produce CO gas.  If CO has been detected in your home the issue will certainly be wih the heating system, rather than the fuel being used.

For further information on Carbon Monoxide, visit

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