Be Carbon Monoxide Aware – protect yourself from the silent killer
Here at Woodburner Warehouse we want all of our customers to be safe in their homes. While installing a stove is extremely safe if installed correctly we would like you to read the following article to familiarise yourself with the dangers of Carbon monoxide.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide is a highly poisonous gas that has no colour, taste or smell and can be produced by appliances that use gas, wood, oil or coal. Carbon Monoxide can also be present in smoke from solid fuel or oil appliances.
Carbon Monoxide is potentially fatal and even low-levels of the poison can cause lasting damage to your health.
Recognise the early symptoms
Recognising the early symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning will save your life. The symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning are similar to the ‘flu’. They can include:
* Stomach pains
* Chest pains
If you experience these symptoms but feel better when you are outside or away from the appliance, you could be suffering from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Our blood has a component called haemoglobin, which normally absorbs oxygen in our lungs and carries it to the rest of the body. But haemoglobin absorbs Carbon Monoxide 240 times more easily than it does oxygen.
So, when we inhale Carbon Monoxide from the air, it is this toxic gas, rather than oxygen that attaches itself to the haemoglobin, starving the body of oxygen. The smaller the person, the more quickly the body can be overcome by the affects of Carbon Monoxide.
Severe Carbon Monoxide poisoning makes the body turn a cherry-red colour. Unlike a lack of oxygen due to choking for example, the body does not turn blue. Instead, the victim’s skin will be pink or pale with bright red lips.
Carbon Monoxide poisoning can affect the victim’s mental ability before they are even aware that there is a problem. Any effort that increases the body’s need for oxygen only makes the problem worse, rapidly leading to collapse and potentially death.
Spot the signs around your appliances
Carbon Monoxide can be present in smoke from solid fuel or oil appliances. If you are using a gas appliance that should have a crisp blue flame, such as a pilot light, look out for changes. If it turns to a lazy orange flame, the appliance may not be working correctly.
You are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if:
* Your appliance was poorly installed
* Your appliance is not working properly
* Your appliance has not been safety checked and serviced annually
* There is not enough fresh air in the room
* Your chimney or flue is blocked
* You allow people who are not CORGI registered to install or maintain your gas appliances
Why you should get your appliances checked annually
Appliances that are properly installed and serviced and have sufficient ventilation are efficient and safe.
To avoid the production of Carbon Monoxide and to make sure you and your family are safe you must have all your fuel-burning appliances safety checked annually by either a CORGI registered installer if you have a gas appliance or the relevant professional for your fuel type (contact HETAS or OFTEC for further details).
* Make sure rooms and heaters are well ventilated.
* Have your chimneys and flues checked regularly.
* Buy a Carbon Monoxide alarm.
You increase the risk of your appliance producing Carbon Monoxide if it is badly installed or poorly maintained.
If you have a solid fuel appliance you should empty and check the ash can daily, clean the flue ways at the back of the boiler weekly and clean the throat plates at the top of the room heater monthly.
If you live in rented accommodation with gas appliances your landlord must provide you with proof that a CORGI registered installer has safety-checked the appliances within the last 12 months.
Don’t block ventilation
With a wood burning or multifuel stove over 5kw you must have an airvent into the room which has direct contact with fresh air from the outside.
It is dangerous to block ventilation to your fuel-burning appliances. If you block ventilation to your appliances it can lead to Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Fuel-burning appliances need a consistent supply of air in order for complete combustion to occur and for the appliance to work correctly. If you are concerned about drafts in your home, you should speak to your installation specialist who may be able to recommend a different location in your home for the appliance to be relocated.
If you use a solid fuel burning appliance you should have your chimney swept at least once a year, preferably before each winter, as birds’ nests and spider webs can block chimneys and stop the flow of air.
Fit a CE approved Audio Carbon Monoxide alarm to your property
Fitting a CE-approved audible carbon monoxide alarm is a good second line of defence after having your appliances safety checked. In fact, if you cannot get a safety check booked in immediately, you should buy an audible alarm now and fit it straight away. It will alert you if your appliance leaks Carbon Monoxide until it can be properly checked and certified by a professional.
Carbon Monoxide alarms need to meet European safety standards and must be audible. You usually fit them in the room that an appliance is installed but you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
We do not recommend the use of a ‘Black Spot’ detector – although they are much cheaper than an audible alarm these are often inaccurate and will not alert you if you are overcome by Carbon Monoxide fumes or asleep.
If you are concerned about the threat of Carbon Monoxide poisoning whilst on holiday in the UK or abroad, you may wish to take a battery-operated Carbon Monoxide alarm with you.
Carbon Monoxide alarms cost around £20 to £30 and can be bought from most good DIY stores, some supermarkets and in most cases direct from your energy supplier.
When you buy a Carbon Monoxide alarm, make sure it meets current British and European safety standards. Look for alarms marked with the 'BS EN50291' and with the 'CE' mark, which should be found on the packaging.
Remember that Carbon Monoxide alarms must never be used in place of annual safety checks. They are a second line of defence. There is no alternative to proper installation and maintenance of your appliances.
What to do in an emergency
Make sure you know what to do and who to call in an emergency. If you suspect a Carbon Monoxide leak, stop using the appliance until it has been checked by either a CORGI registered installer if it is a gas appliance or by another relevant professional (contact OFTEC or HETAS for further details).
You should open windows to ventilate the area, leave the room to get some fresh air and seek medical attention.
If someone is seriously ill from Carbon Monoxide poisoning it is vital that they are removed immediately from the contaminated area, placed into the open air and given pure oxygen, if available. Victims should be kept at rest, avoiding exertion. You need to call for medical help urgently.
If you receive medical attention, be sure to state that you suspect Carbon Monoxide poisoning to ensure you receive appropriate treatment, such as a breath or blood test.
If you smell gas then call:
0800 111 999 for England, Scotland and Wales
0800 002 001 for Northern Ireland
01624 644 444 for Isle of Man
01481 749000 for Guernsey
01534 755555 for Jersey
If you are calling from a mobile phone then go outside first. Do NOT smoke, do NOT turn light switches on or off and do NOT do anything to create a spark. Turn off the supply at the meter. If you do not have to switch on a light to do so, open doors and windows and wait outside for the emergency engineer to arrive.
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