Be aware of Carbon Monoxide

Posted on 3rd August 2017 by Alex Heys

What is CO poisoning? How is it produced?

 Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that is completely tasteless, odourless and colourless, and it is known as the “the silent killer”. In 2015 alone, over 4,000 people required medical attention, 135 people were seriously injured and over 50 deaths were recorded.

CO gas is produced when fuels like gas, oil, coal and wood don’t burn properly. It can also be produced from lit charcoal from the BBQ, running cars and the smoke from cigarettes – but the chances of getting CO poisoning from that is low unless it is in an enclosed area.


What can CO do to our body? And what are the symptoms of CO poisoning?

Breathing in a very small amount of CO will be not enough to kill us but as mentioned, CO is completely invisible and odourless, so you won’t be aware how much you have inhaled.

When breathing in an excessive amount of CO, it occupies the space of the haemoglobin (red blood cell), an oxygen carrier that transports oxygen to our cells and organs, which then suffocates our important organs and systems, forcing them to shut down eventually, meaning coma or death.

A serious CO poisoning could be fatal so knowing its symptoms could save your life. However identifying them isn’t the easiest thing to do. The most common symptoms of a mild CO poisoning are:


  • Tension-type headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea (felling sick) and vomiting
  • Tiredness and confusion
  • Stomach pain
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty of breathing

Breathing in a large amount of CO can cause more severe symptoms like:


  • Impaired mental state and personality change (intoxication)
  • Vertigo – the feeling that you or the environment around you is spinning
  • Ataxia – loss of physical co-ordination caused by underlying damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Breathlessness and tachycardia(a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute)
  • Chest paincaused by angina or a heart attack
  • Seizures– an uncontrollable burst of electrical activity in the brain that causes muscle spasms
  • Loss of consciousness– in cases where there are very high levels of carbon monoxide, death may occur within minutes

How can we prevent CO poisoning or detect CO gas?

 A CO detector is a must. There are many types of CO detectors on the market ranging from £8.99 – £89. You can choose one to fit your budget but remember to consult a professional if you aren’t sure where to fit it.

In addition, did you know that from 1 October 2015, landlords are required to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance (e.g. a coal fire, wood burning stove). The landlord must make sure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy. The requirements will be enforced by local authorities who can impose a fine of up to £5,000 where a landlord fails to comply with a remedial notice. You can find out more info about the  smoke and carbon monoxide alarm regulation here.

Alex Heys Author: Alex Heys Google+
Head of Marketing and Communications at Flow: A true believer in the power of words and the importance of the experience.


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