Why is Gas Safety Important at Home?
If you’ve been following our social media accounts lately, you’ll have noticed the amount we have posted has increased to celebrate National Gas Safety Week.
Admittedly Gas Safety isn’t really something that crosses people’s minds that often, we take it for granted that our home appliances are working safely and are shocked when we hear about deadly Carbon Monoxide (CO) leaks in the news, we say ‘oh how terrible’ but we never think that it could happen to us.
While the deaths caused by CO poisoning in the UK are relatively uncommon, the risk isn’t zero and the most tragic cases in recent years have involved families and children whose deaths were 100% preventable.
Statistics from co-gassafety.co.uk show that the majority of CO poisoning deaths occur in the home, during the winter and are caused by faulty central heating boilers.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that is produced when carbon-based fuels (wood, gas, oil and coal) don’t burn completely.
When Carbon based fuels are burned completely they produce the less harmful gas Carbon Dioxide(CO2), however if there isn’t sufficient oxygen or heat that is when CO gas is produced instead.
CO enters the body through the lungs and attaches to the hemoglobin (oxygen carrier cells) in the blood, the CO molecules take the place of oxygen molecules that are delivered to organs and tissues by hemoglobin, without oxygen your organs will begin to shut down, you will suffocate from the inside out often without knowing that there is something wrong until its too late. Some survivors of CO poisoning end up with long term medical conditions directly attributed to the poisoning, including lowered cognitive function, brain injuries, higher risk of complications from heart disease and stroke, increased risk of developing Parkinsons.
Scary right? But wait, it gets much worse!
Unlike LP or Natural Gas which have that characteristic smell to them to alert you when there’s a leak, Carbon Monoxide is completely colourless, odourless and flavourless, the only way to tell if you have a leak is to check your CO monitor. You could be breathing toxic gas right now and not even know it.
What are the Symptoms of CO Poisoning?
The symptoms of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning can be very subtle and that’s what makes it so dangerous, unless you’re incredibly paranoid your first thought when you a headache isn’t going to be ‘I’m being slowly poisoned to death!’, you’re going to look for the most obvious explanation and go with that.
Mild – Headache, Nausea, Vomiting & Sluggishness
Headache, nausea and vomiting are the features of mild CO exposure, these symptoms can easily be misdiagnosed as common illnesses like the flu, gastroenteritis or food poisoning. You may have small children and be used to bugs coming home from school/nursery or be prone to headaches, CO poisoning can be easily overlooked.
Moderate – Trouble Breathing/Drowsiness/Collapsing
As the CO poisoning becomes more acute the symptoms listed above may begin to get worse, you might also begin to feel weak or dizzy, unstable on your feet or have problems with concentration and thinking. Other symptoms include chest pains and shortness of breath. The most deadly of the symptoms are drowsiness and collapsing, if its the middle of the day and your entire family feels like they want to lie down for a nap it might be an idea to check your CO monitor is still working first. If you’re unconscious then you’re unable to get yourself out of danger.
Severe – Seizures/Severe Brain Injury/Death
In severe CO poisoning cases your health can deteriorate very quickly, your brain is being starved of oxygen which causes inflammation in the brain, too long without oxygen and your brain begins to shut down, this leads to further complications such as seizures, brain injury and ultimately death.
Permanent brain damage can occur if the brain is starved of oxygen for 4 minutes or longer, it doesn’t take much time.
How Can I Reduce My Risk of CO Poisoning?
employ a qualified engineer, who is registered with the Gas Safe Register for work on gas and fuel burning appliances
Fit a carbon monoxide alarm that meets British or European Standards
Make sure chimneys and flues are clean and not blocked
Make sure that all rooms are well ventilated when an appliance is being used
Fit an extractor fan in your kitchen
Check your Smoke and CO alarms regularly
Familiarise yourself with the symptoms of CO poisoning
Have your Boiler and Heating serviced once every year
Use poorly maintained appliances that burn gas or other fossil fuels
Burn coal in an enclosed space
Operate petrol-powered engines indoors or in enclosed spaces
Use an unregistered Gas Engineer
Carry out your own repairs
Use gas appliances if they produce yellow flames or they make your walls sooty
Use unflued appliances in small closed-up rooms
Use gas cookers for heating rooms
Ignore damages to gas appliances
The Gas Safe Register was set up in 2009 to replace CORGI as the only gas registration body in the UK, all gas engineers in the UK and the companies they operate under are required by law to register. Since 2010 they have been running Gas Safety Week to remind people to have their gas appliances serviced yearly and to check their gas engineers are Gas Safe registered.
If your engineer isn’t Gas Safe registered, it’s time to find someone else.
Thankfully at SC Duncan all of our engineers are card carrying Gas Safe members, you can check us out on the register by clicking HERE.
In the cringeworthy words of Sean Bean, ‘Winter is coming’, so If you book your boiler/heating service now you’ll save yourself long wait times as we enter our busy period AND potentially avoid becoming a CO poisoning statistic.