March 01, 2010
The frightening consequences of carbon monoxide poisoning led one sufferer to launch her own charity.
Lynn Griffiths, founder and president of CO-Awareness, has provided a guide to the facts of carbon monoxide poisoning and how it can be prevented.
She launched the charity after discovering her family home had a carbon monoxide (CO) leak in 1998.
The charity founder and campaigner says the effects of the “silent killer” can be contained if people are educated about its effects.
What is carbon monoxide poisoning?
It can be fatal or cause permanent damage. It can be produced in any fuel-burning appliance not properly maintained such as cookers, heaters, dryers, boilers and fireplaces.
It is produced when carbon fuels do not burn completely, however has no smell or taste and in large quantities it can kill very quickly.
Danger signs include a yellow or orange flame where there should be a blue one and sooty stains on the walls around fires.
It is also possible to be poisoned by CO if your house shares a wall or chimney with a house that has a CO leak.
These can include headaches, dizziness, tiredness and nausea.
The signs can sometimes be mistaken for flu, a virus or food poisoning.
If someone suffers the symptoms at home but feels fine elsewhere it can be an indicator of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Because they are common symptoms, if you think you may have CO poisoning, tell a doctor why you think this could be.
What to do if you have the symptoms.
Open the windows and get fresh air immediately. If the symptoms are serious, go to hospital.
How to check for leaks.
- Check the colour of flames in appliances – they should be blue. Check them every year.
- Make sure the chimney flue is clear.
- If there are birds nesting, remove them and fit a guard over.
- Eye -evel gas grills can be dangerous, particularly in older cookers. Toasters are better.
- Make sure your home has enough ventilation – check airbricks are not blocked. If your windows are double-glazed your appliances might not have enough air and could produce carbon monoxide.
- See a doctor immediately if you have tiredness, muscle pain, upset stomach, dizziness and headaches. CO levels in the blood drop very quickly so you should be tested as soon as possible.
- If you rent, make sure your landlord has a safety certificate
- Get a CO alarm which can detect low levels of the gas.
For more information, visit www.covictim.org.