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Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas, produced when we burn fuel such as wood, oil, coal, gas, biomass pellets, peat and charcoal.

Exposure to high indoor levels of Carbon Monoxide can be fatal, while exposure to lower levels can result in symptoms that resemble flu, viral infections or food poisoning.

If you think you have been exposed to carbon monoxide and are showing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoining contact the gas Emergency Line on 0800 111999.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Prevention of CO poisoning is simple;

  1. Signs – the six main symptoms of CO poisoning are; headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness
  2. Service – make sure all fuel-burning appliances are serviced annually by an engineer who is qualified and registered with the appropriate organisation
  3. Sound - fit an audible alarm – this could save your life

A carbon monoxide alarm must carry a ‘CE’ mark and comply with BS EN 50291. Both the CE mark and the BS reference should be written on the alarm somewhere. An alarm is not a substitute for ensuring that appliances are properly installed, maintained and regularly tested.

The symptoms of CO poisoning can include headache, nausea, vertigo, weakness and chest pain. People who are exposed to a large amount of CO may become unconscious.

When people are exposed to low doses of CO over a long period of time, symptoms may be more difficult to spot but can still cause serious long-term health problems and even death

Do not ignore the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning especially when;

  • people in the same building are experiencing similar symptoms,
  • you have recently moved into a building,
  • you have had a new appliance fitted,
  • you have had work carried out that might affect ventilation,
  • you feel better when you are out of the building,
  • you have recently switched on the heating.

If you think you may have CO poisoning, seek medical advice immediately.

Switch off any appliances that may be causing the problem and go into the fresh air.

Appliances should not be used again until tested by a professional and deemed safe

Information for Health Professionals

  • When patients present to the ED with a headache, especially after midnight or early in the morning, consider CO poisoning
  • Public Health Wales has developed an algorithm to assist medical professionals in considering CO poisoning in their patients and the action to take - Suspected Carbon Monoxide Exposure: A Guide for Use in Hospital Emergency Departments and Primary Care Settings

If the patient has CO poisoning, Public Health Wales and the Local Authority should be informed immediately and definitely before discharge to ensure that the source of the CO is dealt with.

More Information

For suspected gas leaks, contact the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999.

For more information on qualified and registered engineers who could service an appliance contact;
For Gas: Gas Safe Register tel. 0800 408 5500
For Oil: OFTEC tel. 0845 658 5080
For Solid Fuel: HETAS tel 0845 634 5626
If you think you have been exposed to carbon monoxide and are showing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoining contact the gas Emergency Line on 0800 111999.