Carbon monoxide gas is known as the ‘silent killer’ because it’s invisible and has no smell. It’s also very poisonous and can kill quickly. Carbon monoxide can be produced if:
- gas appliances are not installed or maintained properly
- gas appliances are broken or not working properly
- flues or chimneys become blocked
- rooms are not adequately ventilated.
Children, elderly people, pregnant women and people with respiratory problems are particularly at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning. The symptoms are similar to those of flu, and include tiredness, headaches, nausea, chest pains, sudden faintness, erratic behaviour, diarrhoea and stomach pains.
If you regularly suffer from any of these symptoms and have gas appliances in your home, ask your doctor for a blood or breath test for carbon monoxide. If you are tested positively for the effects of carbon monoxide, you should immediately turn off your gas appliances and arrange for them to be checked by a registered gas installer.
The Gas Safe Register website has more information.
What should I do in an emergency?
If you think there may be a gas leak in your home (for example, if you smell gas or your carbon monoxide detector goes off), there are several things you need to do :
- if you can, turn off the gas supply at the meter
- get out immediately, leaving the doors and windows open if possible for ventilation. Remember, don’t turn any electrical switches on or off (this includes light switches and the doorbell) and don’t smoke
- warn your neighbours
- call the National Gas Emergency number – 0800 111 999 (If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, you can use a textphone (Minicom) on 0800 371 787). An engineer will come out free of charge and disconnect either the leaking appliance or the entire gas supply if necessary. If possible, they will fix the problem straight away. Otherwise, they will isolate the faulty appliance so you can’t use it and turn the gas supply back on again. You’ll then need to arrange for a Gas Safe registered engineer to come and fix the appliance.
- report the leak to your gas supplier (for example, British Gas).
- If you think you’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide gas, go to see a doctor immediately and ask for a blood or breath test.
If you are disabled, chronically ill or of retirement age, you might be covered by the Priority Services Register scheme and get more help. Click here for more information.