Carbon Monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas, which makes its presence hard to detect. It is formed when domestic fuels such as gas, coal, wood and charcoal are burned. When fuel burns in an enclosed room, oxygen in the room is gradually used up and replaced with carbon dioxide. If carbon dioxide builds up in the air, the fuel is prevented from burning fully and starts releasing carbon monoxide instead. Carbon monoxide is a by-product of combustion, present whenever fuel is burned. It is produced by common home appliances such as gas or oil furnaces, gas refrigerators, gas clothes dryers, gas ranges, gas water heaters or space heaters, fireplaces, charcoal grills, and wood burning stoves.Carbon monoxide alarms are an excellent way to detect high levels of carbon monoxide.
Here are a few Do's and Dont's:
- Do not use poorly maintained appliances that burn gas or other fossil fuels
- Do not burn charcoal in an enclosed space
- Do not install, convert or service fuel-burning appliances without proper expertise
- Do not use gas appliances if they produce yellow flames and deposit soot on walls
- Do not use unflued appliances in small closed-up rooms
- Do not use gas cookers for heating rooms
- Do employ a qualified, reputable and registered engineer for work on all fuel-burning appliances
- Do employ a suitably qualified engineer, who is registered with the Gas Safe Register (formerly CORGI), for work on gas appliances
- Do have fuel-burning appliances checked regularly by a qualified engineer
- Do fit a carbon monoxide alarm that meets British or European standards
- Do make sure chimneys and flues are clean and not blocked
- Do make sure that all rooms are well ventilated when an appliance is being used
- Do fit an extractor fan in your kitchen
The most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Carbon monoxide symptoms are often described as "flu-like". If you breathe in a lot of CO it can make you pass out or kill you (www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm 2015). Larger exposures can lead to toxicity of the central nervous system and heart, and death.
When too much carbon monoxide is in the air, your body replaces the oxygen in your red blood cells with carbon monoxide. This can lead to serious tissue damage, or even death.
Treatment of poisoning largely consists of giving 100% oxygen or providing 'hyperbaric oxygen therapy', although the optimum treatment remains controversial. Oxygen works as an antidote as it increases the removal of carbon monoxide from hemoglobin, in turn providing the body with normal levels of oxygen.
Domestic carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by early detection with the use of household carbon monoxide detectors. Building regulations have made fitting one of these alarms a legal requirement for all stoves installed since 2010.
The best way of preventing a carbon monoxide leak is to use a professional wood-burning stove installer when you first buy a stove. Find a HETAS approved installer to fit your stove. This will give you piece of mind to know that the job has been done safely and by the book.
A huge proportion of carbon monoxide leaks related to wood-burning stoves are caused because 'the stove was installed badly in the first place'. If your stove is fitted properly, there is very little chance that gases will leak from it.
Black soot marks on the walls around your stove could indicate a carbon monoxide leak. If these marks are spotted, it is worth getting a HETAS approved fitter to check for any problems. An accumulation of smoke in any of your rooms would suggest there is a problem with your flue, if smoke is leaking out, carbon monoxide could be too.