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What Exactly is Carbon Monoxide (CO)? Carbon Monoxide or CO is a highly poisonous gas that is created when carbon based fuels aren’t burnt completely. These fuels can include gas, oil, coal and wood and since the gas is odourless, colourless and even tasteless it is very hard to detect. For this reason is is often referred to as the ‘Silent Killer’. Though the fuels are safe to use when burnt correctly, it is only on the occasion when the fuel isn’t burnt completely that the Carbon Monoxide is produced.
Once inhaled, CO restricts oxygen passage to the cells, organs and tissues of the body by preventing the blood from carrying it to these vital areas.
It is thought that around twenty people throughout the UK die every year from the exposure to CO gas caused by incorrectly fitted, or poorly maintained flues and gas appliances. Even more than this number may suffer serious health problems due to prolonged exposure to the poisonous gas including paralysis and brain damage.
There are a few signs which can indicate that the fuel you are using is being partially burnt, resulting in the production of Carbon Monoxide, these are:
There are a number of steps that yo can take in order to minimise any risk of Carbon Monoxide exposure, including:
If you think your appliance may be leaking the poisonous Carbon Monoxide gas into your premises there are a number of steps you should take:
t’s vital that you seek urgent medical attention if you believe any of the following symptoms are linked to CO poisoning, be sure to ask for a blood and/or breath test. It’s important to remember that CO can leave the blood very rapidly, and if the medical attention you receive is over 4 hours after the exposure the test may be inaccurate, putting you and others back at risk. The symptoms to look out for include:
If the symptoms are detected early, be aware that they can be confused with a variety of common illnesses such as flu, general fatigue and food poisoning.
Carbon monoxide alarms are a valuable addition to any premises that may be at risk of CO leakage. Having an audible alarm available is vital in the event of any CO leakage during the night, or while you are otherwise engaged. What’s more they aren’t expensive and offer another defines against the ‘silent killer’. Any CO alarm purchased must comply with the EN 50291 British Standard and have the appropriate approval mark present (for example the Kitemark). Always be sure to install the alarms as per the recommended installation procedure from the manufacturer and check operation and battery levels regularly for optimum usage.
Though recommended highly, it’s important not to rely solely on a Carbon Monoxide alarm. Regular boiler servicing and properly carried out boiler installation should be used in conjunction with the installation of CO alarms for ultimate safety.
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