Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless and tasteless poisonous gas, which takes the lives of over 50 people every year in the UK. It’s a silent but deadly killer, and yet more than 47 million of us still don’t have a carbon monoxide alarm in our homes.
It’s produced when fossil fuels like gas, coal, wood or oil don’t burn properly, which can be caused by anything from a blocked flue to a room that isn’t properly ventilated. Most cases of carbon monoxide poisoning are due to inadequate ventilation or poor maintenance of cooking or heating appliances and chimneys.
Many people believe that only gas-fuelled heating systems cause CO poisoning. In fact, it can happen with any fossil fuel system, from open fires to wood burning stoves.
CO poisoning can kill quickly, without any warning, but you can protect yourself and your family by knowing the early warning signs.
These include headaches, dizziness, tiredness, breathlessness and nausea. It can easily be mistaken for flu, a virus and even food poisoning.
If you think you may have CO poisoning, open the windows and go outside. If you have the symptoms listed above, consult your GP immediately. Your doctor can check for carbon monoxide poisoning by testing the levels in your blood.
CO alarms and detectors are available at DIY shops (from approx. £20).