Carbon Monoxide safety

Date published: 5th June 2013

Carbon monoxide (CO) gas can be produced when certain fuels such as gas, oil and coal are burnt but not to full completion. If your boiler is not functioning correctly, it can produce CO because there is not a sufficient air flow to the vital parts of your boiler.

Silent danger

Because CO cannot be smelt, seen or tasted, it is a huge problem amongst households in Plymouth. Plumbers are regularly called out to properties that have CO monitors fitted, but we still regularly encounter households that don’t.


CO is understood to affect the proper transport of oxygen around the body. This can result in regular, unexplained headaches, lethargy, dizziness and feelings of nausea. In some extreme cases, you might pass out or experience pains in the chest.

These symptoms are often confused with viral illnesses and this may be why CO poisoning is such a huge problem. It can ill very quickly if the problem is not properly diagnosed. If you or anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms, you need to consult a doctor as soon as you can.

Cause and prevention

The first thing you need to do to protect your property from CO poisoning is make sure that all of your appliances are functioning correctly and safely. And the easiest way to do this is to get a Gas Safe registered engineer to check out your appliances and sign them off for you.

They will check that your appliances have sufficient airflow to perform safely and they will also check for signs of staining or soot that can also indicate a problem.

Having your boiler serviced regularly is a good idea for so many reasons (it can prolong the lifetime of your appliance for starters). Most manufacturers will recommend an annual service, though you may not need it every year until your boiler is a few years old.

A CO detector will also provide peace of mind between boiler services. If your appliances are properly looked after, you should be safe but it’s never a bad idea to have extra protection. CO monitors are not intended to replace the regular servicing of your appliances; their purpose is to be additional protection against the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

When purchasing a CO monitor, make sure that it meets all British and European Standards.

What to do if you’re worried about CO poisoning

If you think that your appliance might be a potential danger, switch it off and call your local plumber as soon as you can. They will be able to respond quickly and check out your appliance for signs of CO spills. Before they arrive, open as many windows and doors as you can to ventilate the room. If you or any member of your family is showing signs of CO poisoning, seek a doctor’s advice as soon as possible.

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