Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odourless gas which is highly toxic to people and animals. It is often referred to as the 'Silent Killer' because it is difficult to detect as we can't smell, taste or see it. Carbon Monoxide poisoning can occur at any time in any home or enclosed space. Initial symptoms such as tiredness and headaches, are similar to those of influenza, which can make it difficult to diagnose.
The longer CO gas is breathed in and the higher its concentration, the worse the symptoms become including loss of balance, loss of vision and memory and eventually unconscionsness and death.
CO is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels such as wood, charcoal, coal, heating oil, paraffin, petrol, natural gas, propane, butane etc. and by cigarette smoke. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is the normal by-product of combustion, but if there is not enough oxygen present Carbon Monoxide is formed instead of CO2.
A dangerous level of CO can occour if an appliance is faulty or badly maintained, if a flue is blocked or if a room is inadequately ventilated. To avoid the risk of CO poisoning, ensure fossil fuel burning appliances are serviced regularly and install a CO alarm.