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What causes Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning?

Carbon Monoxide is a odourless, tasteless and silent gas that can build up in homes, tents and caravans and kill. Where does it come from?

Last updated  24 May 2018

Two families talk about how CO affected their lives.

Gas, oil, coal and wood are all fuel sources that are used in many household appliances, including:

  • boilers;
  • gas fires;
  • central heating systems;
  • water heaters;
  • cookers;
  • open fires.

 If the fuel in these appliances does not burn fully, carbon monoxide gas can be produced.

 Carbon monoxide is produced by:

  • Indoor use of a barbecue grill or outdoor heater;
  • Using cooking appliances for heating purposes;
  • Burning fuel in an enclosed or unventilated spaces, where there are      no air vents, windows or doors left open or ajar;
  • Faulty, damaged or worn out heating or cooking appliances;
  • Poorly maintained heating and cooking appliances;
  • Not servicing appliances regularly;
  • Badly ventilated rooms - sealed windows, no air bricks;
  • Chimneys or flues blocked by birds’ nests, fallen bricks, growing vegetation, bad DIY etc.;
  • Poor or improper installation or use of heating and cooking appliances;
  • Running engines such as cars or lawnmowers in garages with doors closed;
  • Chemical fumes from cleaning fluids and paint removers that contain methylene chloride (dichloromethane).

 Look out for:

  • yellow or orange flames where there should normally be blue ones;
  • sooty stains on the walls around fires and water heaters.

You could also be poisoned by carbon monoxide if you share a wall or chimney with a house that has a carbon monoxide leak, even if your own house does not have one.


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