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Gas Safety – Carbon monoxide the silent killer

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious concern and the most common causes are ill fitted gas appliances or flues.

Some of the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are stomach and chest pains, tiredness, vomiting and, in prolonged cases of exposure, death.

Carbon monoxide is colourless, tasteless and has no scent which will make the poisonous gas almost impossible to detect.

A study by the University of London for the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) showed that ill fitting gas appliances were fitted in 25% of homes with 8% of these classified as having a higher than average risk of dangerous carbon monoxide levels. More alarming was that 50% of residents surveyed were not aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide.

All gas appliance installations, maintenance, safety checks or repairs should only be performed by gas safe engineers who have the skills and experience to carry out the job. Chimney flues should be swept yearly by a qualified chimney sweep.

For gas to burn safely gas appliances must be in well ventilated areas and any vents should be unobstructed. The most common cause of carbon monoxide cases in homes is due to inadequate ventilation. But more than half of all carbon monoxide poisonings have been the result of people not taking action or not taking the right action. Being aware of the basic safety rules for gas appliances is vital to keep people safe in your home, and knowing what to do if you suspect carbon monoxide is crucial.

Carbon monoxide symptoms can be confused with other illnesses and because the gas leaves the body quickly, once exposure is stopped, blood or breath tests to check for its presence may be unsuccessful up to four hours after.

It is therefore important that if you notice signs that your appliance is not working correctly to turn it off; if you see soot or stains around the appliance, or have an orange yellow flame or a pilot light that refuses to light then your appliance isn’t working properly.

If you suspect an appliance is not working correctly then quickly turn it off. Open doors and windows to let as much fresh air in as possible and then turn off the gas supply if you know how.

For expert advice call the HSE Gas Safety Advice Line: 0800 300 363, or the National Grid on the Gas Emergency: 0800 111 999.