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Everything You Need to know about Carbon Monoxide

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This is more of a darker blog compared to the posts in the recent past but it doesn’t mean it’s any less important, this is all about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide, it is something that surprisingly is taken very lightly these days just because medical care and monoxide detectors, but just because they better than they ever were doesn’t mean we are completely safe from it, there’s around 400 admissions to hospital and around 40-50 deaths every year in the UK alone, and there’s a very good reason for this.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is an odourless and clear gas making it next to impossible to detect without specialised equipment. But fear not there are ways to prevent any health risks of monoxide poisoning, the main way to keep safe from it is to prevent it you can do this by having monoxide detector also if you check on your boiler regularly (when turned on & off) you will notice one of two things, If the flame is a yellow or an orange colour instead of the normal blue then this is a sure sign of carbon monoxide, another sure sign is if there is a yellow or brown burn mark surrounding the area of the flame then there is some monoxide being released from this point.

How is Carbon Monoxide formed?

Carbon monoxide is formed when fuels such as gas, coal, wood or charcoal are burned. So when burned in a small room or enclosed area, the oxygen inside the room gets used up when there is insufficient ventilation which allows carbon dioxide to replace the oxygen. This then causes the incomplete burning of the carbon based fuel used in your boiler, which then produces the deadly carbon monoxide.

Monoxide poisoning can be very harmful because it binds with the haemoglobin in red blood cells this reduces the amount of oxygen the red blood cells can carry to the heart, brain and other vital organs. Once the Carbon Monoxide has began attaching itself to your haemoglobin and your oxygen intake level continues to reduce your vital organs will begin to shut down causing extreme illness or in the worst cases death.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are not  always obvious, especially when exposed to small amounts. Headaches are the most common symptom of mild carbon monoxide poisoning. Other symptoms can include:

  • dizziness
  • nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
  • tiredness and confusion
  • stomach pains
  • shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

Symptoms of exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can be similar to those of food poisoning and flu. But unlike flu, carbon monoxide poisoning doesn’t cause a high temperature.The symptoms can gradually get worse with prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide, leading to a delay in diagnosis. Your symptoms may be less severe when you’re away from the source of the carbon monoxide. If this is the case you should ask a suitably qualified professional to check any appliances you think may be faulty and leaking gas. The longer you are exposed to the gas, the more severe your symptoms will be. You may also experience loss of balance, vision and memory. Eventually, you may lose consciousness. This has been known to happen within two hours if there’s a lot of carbon monoxide in the air. Long-term exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can also lead to neurological symptoms, such as lack of concentration and frequent emotional changes – for example, becoming easily irritated, depressed or making impulsive or irrational decisions.

Breathing in high levels of carbon monoxide gas can cause much more severe symptoms. These can include:

  • impaired mental state and personality changes
  • The feeling that you or the environment around you is spinning
  • Loss of physical co-ordination caused by underlying damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Chest pain caused by angina or a heart attack
  • Seizures or muscle spasms
  • loss of consciousness, this is in cases where there are very high levels of carbon monoxide, death may occur within minutes

Preventing Carbon Monoxide From Forming

Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home. You could also check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each Spring and Autumn. Place your detector in the same room as the boiler, this will help to find the first signs of a Carbon monoxide leak. Consider buying a detector with a digital readout, this detector can tell you the highest level of CO concentration in your home in addition to alarming. It is also good practise to replace your CO detector every five years.

You should ensure that you have your heating system and any other appliances that use gas, oil of coal serviced by a qualified Gas registered technician every year.

If you have gas appliances ensure that they are vented properly.

Have the chimney in your household cleaned every year, this is something overlooked. Birds can nest within chimneys and damage the brick causing it to be blocked by debris. This will then reduce ventilation within that room.

If there is a wall vent in your household that may whistle when there’s a strong wind never block it up. Instead of blocking it up get a vent cover for it this will stop the wind from entering it without blocking it, this goes for any camper vans as well.

Newer boilers can reduce the chance of any build up of carbon monoxide in the home.

Remember to have all relevant appliances are check every year by a qualified specialist. 

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