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Carbon monoxide – the silent killer

The government is looking to tighten up legislation requiring all landlords to install carbon monoxide detectors in any room where the fire or heating system is fired by carbon fuels – coal, gas or oil – reported the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) on the 27th of January 2020.

Currently, the regulations extend only to rooms in which there is an open fire or wood-burning stove.

The review follows a decision already taken by the Welsh Assembly to introduce similar legislation – making the failure to install carbon monoxide detectors as leaving any let accommodation unfit for human habitation – reported ARLA Propertymark on the 10th of January 2020.

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced when carbon fuels, including coal, wood, gas and oil do not burn properly – typically because of a lack of air. CO is a highly toxic, odourless and colourless gas, so almost impossible to detect with your senses alone. That is why a professionally-made yet affordable carbon monoxide detector is essential.

Carbon monoxide detectors are essential because the gas is a potential killer. More than 50 people a year die from carbon monoxide poisoning, revealed the website Good to Know in a posting dated the 24th of January 2020, and thousands more need hospital treatment because of its effects.

That is also why we have highlighted – in an earlier need to know posting – the importance for landlords to understand their obligations to install carbon monoxide detectors in their let property.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Not only is the gas itself invisible, colourless, tasteless, and odourless, the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are anything but easy to diagnose. Many symptoms are similar to the ‘flu, other viral infections, food poisoning, tiredness or even a hangover, suggests advice from the Gas Safe Register.

The advice goes on to describe the main symptoms victims are likely to experience – symptoms which may be shared by other occupants of the home and which might appear to get better once you go outside:

  • nausea;
  • dizziness;
  • breathlessness;
  • headaches;
  • collapse; and
  • eventual loss of consciousness.

What to do

If you, your family members or tenants are suffering from any of these symptoms and carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected, the following course of action should be taken:

Get the affected person outside into the fresh air as quickly as possible;

  • turn off any gas or oil-fired appliance immediately and open doors and windows to let air in;
  • go to the accident and emergency wing of your nearest hospital – where you may be given a blood or breath test to check whether you have CO poisoning; and

Spotting carbon monoxide leaks

You are not able to smell it, taste it, or see it, but there are a few tell-tale signs that might indicate a CO leak:

  • the pilot light on a gas- or oil-fired boiler often goes out – or burns with a weak yellow flame rather than a bright blue one;
  • there is a build-up of dark soot around the appliance or boiler; or
  • there is an unusual amount of condensation on the windows of the room in which the appliance is installed.

Once again, if you suspect a CO leak or if anyone appears to have been affected by it, take immediate action.

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