Vital information on carbon monoxide poisoning from the heating helpline

The free advice service that is operated by the HVCA and known as the Heating Helpline, has set up a new and dedicated section on the website to provide straightforward, simple yet potentially life-saving advice which is designed to help families to safeguard themselves from the serious dangers presented by CO poisoning.

CO, or carbon monoxide, is a gas that is both odourless and colourless and in Wales and England alone, causes the deaths of around 50 people every year. In addition to this, 200 people are also seriously injured by CO and a further 200 are treated, though not admitted to hospital, due to accidental poisoning by CO gas.

It is a well known fact that CO is under diagnosed and there could be many more people that are suffering, or have suffered without knowing it, the ill effects of CO exposure. To further help consumers, the Heating Helpline operated by the HVCA has set up the dedicated section at http://www.heatinghelpline.org.uk. This free and simple advice could be potentially life saving, so make sure you check it out.

CO results from the incomplete combustion of all carbon-containing fuels: gas (domestic or bottled), coal, coke, oil, biofuel and wood. Any disruption of the burning process or shortage of oxygen can increase CO production and its accumulation to dangerous levels. More than two thirds of reported cases of carbon monoxide poisoning are connected to central heating appliances. Out of these, half are classed as “older” central heating boilers.

But it’s not just malfunctioning or poorly flued gas boilers that cause CO: stoves, fires, water heaters, paraffin heaters, room heaters, generators and even BBQs (if used in a poorly ventilated area) are all potential sources. Caravans, boats and mobile homes are also at risk as they often use portable heating and cooking appliances in confined areas.

Blane Judd, Chief Executive of the HVCA, comments, “Research indicates that 23% of homes have one or more defective gas appliances and almost 1 in 10 are judged to be at risk of dangerous levels of CO. Many homeowners rely on old or inefficient boilers that may never have been serviced. The first line of defence therefore is to ensure that gas appliances (boiler, cooker or fire) and any connected flues or extraction systems in your home are regularly maintained to keep them operating in safe working order, with annual safety checks by a qualified Gas Safe Registered engineer.

“A second but highly important line of defence is to fit one or more CO alarms. You cannot see or smell carbon monoxide and so fitting a European Standard certified audible carbon monoxide alarm is a low cost but potentially life saving device. CO alarms are now widely available to buy online or through electrical stores. Your local Gas Safe Registered heating engineer will also fit one for you”.

The Heating Helpline provides essential safety information and useful advice to keep your home and family out of harm’s way. To locate your local Gas Safe Registered engineer contact the free Heating Helpline on 0800 840 4069 and to view the new section on CO poisoning visit: http://www.heatinghelpline.org.uk.