Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil, wood and coal. Carbon based fuels are usually safe to use, however, when the fuel does not burn properly, excess CO is produced, which is poisonous. When CO enters the body, it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, the brain and organs.

You cannot see it, taste it or smell it but CO can kill quickly with little warning. Around 50 people die every year from CO poisoning caused by gas, oil and solid fuel appliances and flues that have not been properly installed, maintained or that are poorly ventilated. Lower CO levels that do not kill immediately can cause serious harm to health if breathed in over a long period. In extreme cases paralysis and brain damage can be caused as a result of prolonged exposure to CO. Taking sensible precautions could dramatically reduce this risk.

There are signs that you can look out for which indicate incomplete combustion is occurring and may result in the production of CO:

  • yellow or orange rather than blue flames (except fuel effect fires or flueless appliances which display this colour flame)
  • soot or yellow/brown staining around or on appliances
  • pilot lights that frequently blow out
  • increased condensation inside windows

Last modified on July 3rd, 2017 at 12:05 pm