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Protect your family from a silent killer

Get a carbon monoxide detector for your home

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.

Spot the signs

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-proof your home

  • Make sure you have an audible CO alarm. Before buying one, ensure it complies with British Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European approval mark, such as the Kitemark.
  • Always use a qualified, registered gas engineer to carry out any work – check they’re on the Gas Safe Register - and get your appliances serviced once a year.
  • Get any chimneys swept at least once a year.
  • Make sure that your rooms are well ventilated and don’t block air vents, especially if your windows are double-glazed or draught-proofed.
  • If you think an appliance is producing CO, switch it off immediately, open the doors and windows, and contact an engineer on the Gas Safe Register.
  • The Health and Safety Executive has online information, or you can call the gas safety advice line on 0800 300 363.

CO alarms and detectors are available at DIY shops (from approx. £20).