Carbon Monoxide and its dangers Re January 12, 2021

Carbon Monoxide and its dangers

Carbon monoxide

They call it the silent killer.

Carbon Monoxide and its effects on your health is a topic that isn’t discussed as often as it should be. Our aim in this article is to raise awareness of this poisonous gas and ensure you have the maximum safety in your home. 

If you would like more information on boiler safety, visit our How Safe is My Boiler? article. 

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon Monoxide is an odourless, tasteless and colourless poisonous gas formed by the incomplete combustion of fuels. This gas is found in the fumes or fuels that contain carbon, such as wood, coal, and gasoline.

What are the effects of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

Once Carbon Monoxide enters your system, it mixes with the haemoglobin (a molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen around your body) in your bloodstream to form carboxyhaemoglobin. As a result of this, the blood is no longer able to carry oxygen, causing the body’s cells and tissue to fail and consequently, die. 

Carbon Monoxide poisoning is not something that should be taken lightly. The complications can be very serious and long-lasting. According to Medical News Today, heart damage, coronary heart disease, brain damage, worsening of memory and also symptoms of Parkinson’s disease has been linked as a result of CO poisoning.

What are the symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

Some may confuse symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning as feeling like they have the flu, but without having a temperature. 

The longer a person is exposed to CO, the worse the symptoms will become. 

Within the first few hours of being exposed to CO, you may get a sense of loss of balance, blurred vision, and even memory problems. You could also eventually lose consciousness. Those who are exposed over a longer period can experience numbness, unexplained vision problems, sleep disturbances, impaired vision, and concentration. 

Headaches, dizziness, vomiting and nausea are also symptoms caused by Carbon Monoxide poisoning according to Harvard Health Publishing

How long do these side effects last?

If the symptoms are mild, there is a high chance of a full recovery. However, if you consume a high level of CO gas poisoning, this could cause long-term problems, such as heart damage.

What are the causes of Carbon Monoxide in a home?

Carbon Monoxide can be a result of common household items, such as gas-fired, oil-burning furnaces, grills, and portable generators. According to the NHS website, over 60 deaths a year are caused by accidental Carbon Monoxide poisoning in England and Wales*. 

How to tell if you are exposed to Carbon Monoxide in your home.

Carbon Monoxide gas is produced as a result of your appliance not burning fuel correctly. If there isn’t enough oxygen for the gas to burn completely, Carbon Monoxide is then formed as a waste product.  
There is no need to worry about CO poisoning if you have an electric boiler installed in your home. However, if you have an oil or gas boiler, this is when you should be wary. 

What are the signs of Carbon Monoxide poisoning?

Because CO is completely colourless and odourless, unless you have a Carbon Monoxide detection alarm fitted, it is difficult to detect CO poisoning. 

One way of spotting possible Carbon Monoxide poisoning is by analysing others around you. If you notice that a large number of people in the same environment are developing the same flu-like symptoms, this may be a result of CO poisoning. If you discover you have these symptoms when in a certain environment, but they improve once leaving, this could also be an indication. 

Other possible indications of a Carbon Monoxide leak in your home are;

  • Yellow or orange (instead of blue) flames coming from our gas appliances
  • A build-up of smoke in your property as a result of a faulty flue
  • Excessive condensation in the same room as the suspected leaking appliance
  • The pilot light frequently blowing out
  • Soot or black marks on the front of your gas fires

Treatment for Carbon Monoxide poisoning

As mentioned above, CO poisoning could lead to long-term health problems, including heart damage. During treatment, a physician may as for you to do a blood test to assess how well the heart is pumping blood around the system and check whether there are unusual levels of carboxyhemoglobin. 

Severe Carbon Monoxide poisoning can lead to being hospitalised and having to be given oxygen through a mask to speed the production of oxyhemoglobin (a substance formed by the combination of oxygen and haemoglobin, which is a protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues).

If doctors suspect that you have suffered nerve damage, you may be offered HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy). This will flood your blood with pure oxygen to compensate for the lack of oxygen caused by CO poisoning.

How to prevent exposure to Carbon Monoxide poisoning

Being aware and educated on what Carbon Monoxide is and its dangers are extremely important. It’s also just as important to know how to prevent yourself from being a victim of this poisonous gas. 

Here are some tips to ensure that you are at low risk of being exposed to CO.

  • Avoid using gas ranges or ovens for heating
  • Keep all rooms in the building well ventilated, especially in smaller areas
  • Wear a mask when using products that contain methylene chloride (normally used as a solvent in paint strippers)
  • Be careful when using gas-powered tools and equipment inside rooms 
  • Every household should have a Carbon Monoxide detector alarm installed

Different types of Carbon Monoxide alarms

Kidde Carbon Monoxide Detector 

This design is suitable for wall mounting or free-standing. This design plugs directly into your home wall outlets, meaning that installation is quick and easy. It is fitted with a 9V battery backup which ensures protection against CO poisoning during power cuts. 

If you are looking for a carbon monoxide detector for your home or your travels, this is ideal. 

This CO detector has the following safety features, to ensure maximum safety in your home.

It has a digital display to monitor the CO levels in your home, LED lights to signify different alerts, a button on the interface that tests and silences the alarm, back up batteries, a 10-year warranty of limited service, and an AC plug-in power source. This model is also fitted with a tamper resist feature which deters theft.

First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector

The First Alert CO detector is a more popular model. This Carbon Monoxide alarm is fitted with advanced electrochemical sensors to detect the presence of carbon monoxide. Its loud alert sound ensures maximum safety in your home. This design also has interconnection with other compatible units. 

For the highest level of safety, is it suggested that this alarm is fitted inside each bedroom or near each sleeping area. 

X-sense CD01 Alarm

The X-sense CD01 is a good alternative for the plug-in CO. This model comes with a 10-year lithium sealed battery, a 2-in-1 smoke and CO detector with dual photoelectric and electrochemical sensors, and a large LDC display that shows you the concentration levels of CO inside your home, ensuring 247 protection. 

The Google Nest Protect 

If you are looking for a smart way of managing the smoke and Carbon Monoxide levels in your home, this is perfect for you! 

Google explains the Nest Protect as being resigned from the inside out. It is fitted with a slit-spectrum sensor with tests itself automatically and lasts up to a decade. 

And what better way of being in control of the carbon monoxide levels than having full access to the alarm, by using your mobile phone! You will no longer be able to burn your toast whilst getting ready for work. 

The Google Nest Protect is designed to send you alerts via your mobile phone whenever or wherever it detects smoke or Carbon Monoxide. It is the first alarm that uses Sound Check to quietly test it’s speaker and siren monthly. It also comes with Steam Check, which means you can enjoy a peaceful shower, heated by your new boiler!

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If you think you may have a Carbon Monoxide leak, you should call the Gas Safe Register on the following number during normal working hours: 0800 408 5500. You should also book an appointment as soon as possible with your GP, who will be able to perform a blood or breath test to check for carbon monoxide in your system.

Carbon Monoxide poisoning can strike at any time. Please do your research into what Carbon Monoxide alarm is best suited to your home, but make sure you have one. 

Please keep reading for an extra minute. In 2010, a tragic incident happened to the family of Katie Haines. Katie lost her life to accidentally Carbon Monoxide poisoning. A memorial trust was founded in 2010, soon after Katie’s death, in order to raise awareness of the danger of CO and the result of not having an effective, working Carbon Monoxide alarm. Please don’t let yourself or a loved one be a victim of this deadly gas. Please visit the Katie Haines Trust to read more. 

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