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Protect Yourself From Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Last updated  15 January 2019

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning causes over 50 deaths a year. Read on to find out more about the dangers of CO and how to reduce the risk to you and your family from CO poisoning.


What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas produced when gas, oil, coal, wood or other carbon fuels don't burn properly. Because it has no smell, taste or colour it is hard to detect and you might be breathing it without realising it. It can be fatal or cause permanent damage to your health.

What causes carbon monoxide poisoning?

When fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood burn in an enclosed room all the oxygen is gradually used up and replaced with carbon dioxide, this prevents the fire burning properly and causes it to release poisonous carbon monoxide.

Look for these danger signs

Even though it has no smell, taste or colour there are warning signs that carbon monoxide may be in the air:

  • yellow or orange flames instead of the normal blue flames;
  • sooty stains on the walls around fires and water heaters;
  • sharing a wall or chimney with a neighbouring house where there is a carbon monoxide leak, even if your house does not have one.

Protect yourself with a carbon monoxide alarm

These can be purchased from a reputable retailer, online or in store. Take care to ensure that you are buying a quality audible alarm. Look out for the kitemark  which will ensure that the alarm complies with British Standards. Ensure that you install the alarm according to manufacturers instructions and that the alarm is tested once a week. You may need one alarm for each room in the property that has a fuel-burning appliance, so be mindful that you may need to purchase more than one.

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and Cadent

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service have teamed up with Cadent to provide the following information video about the dangers of CO, warning signs to spot, and who to call in the event of suspected CO poisoning.

If you suspect Carbon Monoxide poisoning or a leak:

  • Call the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999 for advice and support.
  • Get fresh air immediately. Open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and leave the house.
  • Seek advice from a medical professional (GP or hospital) - let them know that you suspect CO poisoning. They can do a blood or breath test to check. Seek advice from a veterinary practice for your pets.
  • Ask a Gas Safe registered engineer to inspect your gas appliances and flues to see if there is a dangerous problem.


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