Last updated: 31/01/2013
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Carbon Monoxide is potentially fatal and even low-levels
of the poison can cause lasting damage to your health. You can't
smell it, see it or taste it, but it could be there
Statistics from CO Gas Safety found that
on average, Carbon Monoxide poisoning kills 40 people per year and
injures around 300.
From September 1995 to August 2010, (15 years) a total of 3,973
people in the UK had a near miss from accidental Carbon Monoxide
poisoning - of which 2,085 required hospital treatment (of those
365 had lost consciousness).
Recent cases of poisonings in Cornwall
Since January 2012, Cornwall Fire and Rescue
Service (CFRS) have attended several calls to carbon monoxide
alarms alerting occupiers of the potentially fatal gas being
released into their homes. Gas boilers, stoves and heating
appliances, solid fuel/wood burners and open fires pose a real
danger if they are not properly maintained and or become
For gas appliance maintenance always use a Gas
safe registered engineer, for information on having your chimney
swept or wood burner flu cleaned see our page on chimney fires which details the importance of
getting it swept more often then perhaps you think it needs.
Cornwall fire and rescue are asking people to
be aware of this silent killer and to think about purchasing a
Carbon monoxide detector for your home and testing it regularly and
keeping it well maintained (by refering to the manufacturers
Our latest campaign is asking all camping and caravan sites
in Cornwall to sign up to the Carbon Monoxide Aware Register to help us
raise more awareness of the potential dangers of the poisonous gas
that many people do not realise are there.
What is carbon monoxide - why is it a problem?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless,
poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels,
including gas, oil, wood and coal. Carbon-based fuels are safe to
use, it is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess CO
is produced, which is poisonous.When CO enters the body, it
prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and
You can't see it, taste it or smell it but CO can kill quickly
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Early symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can mimic many
common ailments and may easily be confused with food poisoning,
viral infections, flu or simple tiredness.
The most common Symptoms to look out for
- feeling sick (nausea) and dizziness,
- you may also feel tired and confused, and
- some people are sick (vomit) and have abdominal
The symptoms of CO poisoning can resemble those of food
poisoning and the flu because they have similar symptoms. However,
unlike flu, CO poisoning does not cause a high temperature.
Symptoms that may come on later include:
- loss of memory, and
- problems with co-ordination.
For more information visit
NHS direct or telephone 0845 4647.
If you suspect you have carbon monoxide poisoning, don't
hesitate to visit your General Practitioner (GP) as soon as
possible. Diagnosing carbon monoxide poisoning is not easy because
it simulates many other conditions, so do say what you think is
Ask for either a blood and/or breath sample to be taken without
delay. That's because your body's carbon monoxide level will reduce
the longer you are away from the contaminated environment, making
it harder to detect.
What should you do in an emergency?
If you suspect that someone is suffering from
the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning and / or is unconscious
within their home, dial 999 from outside the property and ask for
the fire service and ambulance. The fire and rescue service
will ventilate and monitor CO levels on their arrival.
Do not enter the property unless it has been
fully ventilated by the fire and rescue service.
If you think you are suffering from the effects of CO poisoning
evacuate your property immediately and seek help and medical advice
How can I prevent CO poisoning?
- Make sure appliances are installed and operated according to
the manufacturer's instructions and local building regulations.
Most appliances should be installed by qualified professionals.
Have the heating system professionally inspected and serviced
annually to ensure proper operation. The inspector should also
check chimneys and flues for blockages, corrosion, partial and
complete disconnections, and loose connections.
- Never service fuel-burning appliances without proper knowledge,
skill and tools. Always refer to the owner’s manual when performing
minor adjustments or servicing fuel-burning equipment.
- Never operate a portable generator or any other petrol/diesel
engine-powered tool either in or near an enclosed space such as a
garage, house, or other building. Even with open doors and windows,
these spaces can trap CO and allow it to quickly build to lethal
- Install a CO alarm that meets the requirements of the current
British or European safety standards. A CO alarm can provide some
added protection, but it is no substitute for proper use and upkeep
of appliances that can produce CO. Install a CO alarm in the
hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home.
- Never use portable fuel-burning camping equipment inside a
home, garage, vehicle or tent unless it is specifically designed
for use in an enclosed space and provides instructions for safe use
in an enclosed area.
- Never burn charcoal inside a home, garage, vehicle, or
- Never leave a car running in an attached garage, even with the
garage door open.
- Never use gas appliances such as ranges, ovens, or clothes
dryers to heat your home.
- Never operate unvented fuel-burning appliances in any room
where people are sleeping.
- Do not cover the bottom of natural gas or propane ovens with
aluminum foil. Doing so blocks the combustion air flow through the
appliance and can produce CO.
- During home renovations, ensure that appliance vents and
chimneys are not blocked by tarps or debris. Make sure appliances
are in proper working order when renovations are complete.
Fire Safety Leaflets
For more information on carbon monoxide visit: http://www.covictim.org
Fire Safety at Home
Cornwall Fire and Rescue