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Carbon Monoxide (CO) and CO Detector Information

Carbon Monoxide is an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas which is poisonous. It can be produced by appliances that burn fossil fuels such as gas, coal, wood or oil if they are not working properly. This is not to be confused with Carbon Dioxide CO2.

Most cases of Carbon Monoxide poisoning are caused by inadequate ventilation, poor maintenance of appliances, and blocked or leaky flues and chimneys.

Some people mistakenly think that it is only gas-fuelled heating systems which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. In fact, it can happen with any fossil fuel system, if the system, is faulty or the room is not properly ventilated.

Fitting a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Simple reliable Carbon Monoxide detectors are widely available for installation in the home. They are generally available at hardware or DIY type retail outlets.

Before purchasing a CO alarm, always ensure it complies with British Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European approval mark, such as a Kitemark.

CO alarms should be installed and maintained in line with the manufacturer's instructions.

Please note we do not supply Carbon Monoxide detectors.

Key Safety Messages & Facts

  • Carbon Monoxide can result from burning all fossil fuels, not just gas fires and boilers.
  • It is important to ensure rooms are ventilated, vents should not be blocked. If double glazing or draught-proofing is fitted, it should be ensured that there is still enough air circulating for any heaters in the room.
  • Portable heaters do not need a flue, but they require good ventilation.
  • Ensure that all chimneys and flues are regularly swept by a competent sweep and kept clear. This includes chimneys being used as flues for gas fires, but is particularly important for solid fuel appliances.
  • Boilers and heating systems and appliances should be installed, maintained and regularly serviced by a competent engineer (Engineers should be GAS SAFE Installers registered for gas appliances you can find out more here).
  • When moving into a new property, checks should be made to determine when the boiler or heating appliances were last serviced.
  • Gas flames burning orange or yellow instead of blue may indicate the presence of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Carbon Monoxide detectors should comply with the British Standard , but remember they are warning devices. Never rely on Carbon Monoxide detectors entirely; they should not be used as a substitute for the regular servicing of heating installations.
  • Never cook on a barbecue indoors; when charcoal is burnt it gives off Carbon Monoxide.

You can find out more on the Health and Safety Executive website here

Symptoms & Diagnosis of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon Monoxide poisoning is also sometimes referred to as "Carbon Monoxide exposure".

Early symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning, such as headaches, nausea, and fatigue, are often mistaken for Flu because the deadly gas goes undetected in a home. Prolonged exposure can lead to brain damage and even death.

Mild Carbon Monoxide poisoning causes headache, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and poor coordination. Most people who develop mild Carbon Monoxide poisoning recover quickly when moved into fresh air. Moderate or severe Carbon Monoxide poisoning causes confusion, unconsciousness, chest pain, shortness of breath, and coma. Thus, most victims are not able to move themselves and must be rescued. Severe poisoning is often fatal.

Carbon Monoxide is dangerous because a person may not recognize drowsiness as a symptom of poisoning. Consequently, someone with mild poisoning can go to sleep and continue to breathe the Carbon Monoxide until severe poisoning or death occurs. Some people with long-standing, mild Carbon Monoxide poisoning caused by furnaces or heaters may mistake their symptoms for other conditions, such as the flu or other viral infections.

There are 3 basic steps to take if Carbon Monoxide poisoning is suspected at premises.

1.Evacuate - move the affected person to fresh air, administer oxygen if available and request medical assistance.

2. Ventilate - open doors and windows and try to create a through draught

3. Investigate- the source of Carbon Monoxide, (consider contacting a gas engineer)

Advice for Tenants in Rented Accommodation

The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 came into force on the 1st October 2015 and requires private sector landlords to install smoke alarms on each storey of their property, carbon monoxide alarms in the rooms considered most at risk from high levels of carbon monoxide and to check the alarms are in working order at the start of any new tenancy.

Gas Appliances

The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 place a duty on landlords to make sure that appliances and flues are kept in good order and checked for safety at least once every 12 months. Landlords must also keep a record of previous safety checks and issue the current record to the tenant.

Tenants moving into new accommodation should:

  • Demand to see a copy of the current record of safety checks carried out.
  • Ensure that safety checks were carried by a CORGI registered engineer.
  • Not use any gas appliances which they think may be unsafe.
  • Not attempt do-it-yourself work on appliances

Solid Fuel Appliances

Tenants should:

  • Check that air vents are present and open and not blocked in rooms that have solid fuel appliances
  • Check that chimneys and flues have been swept in the last year – even if burning smokeless fuel.
  • Ensure that ash has been emptied regularly – if ash is allowed to build up, the fire may not burn properly and this may also damage the appliance.
  • Insist that appliances are regularly serviced by a qualified heating engineer.
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