Carbon Monoxide: The Invisible Monster In Your Home

Whilst November is Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month here in the UK, any time spent indoors (during Lockdown for example!) is an ideal time to draw our attention to the importance of staying safe from this silent, but deadly killer.

As the winter weather sets in and the evenings get darker, we start to make more use of our central heating but also our fires and log-burners. There’s nothing cosier than a real fire, is there, particularly at Christmas but make sure that you know the risks of using one.

carbon monoxide awareness - do you know the risks - wood stacked up around an open fire place

The importance of Carbon Monoxide awareness

From research carried out by nPower in 2017, it was discovered that 43% of us Brits wouldn’t know what to do if there was a leak in our home. Over 33% of our homes weren’t fitted with a carbon monoxide alarm and over 25% of us didn’t realise that CO has no smell.

Even more worrying, only 5% of us could identify the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning (CO).

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, coal and wood don’t fully burn, so incorrectly installed, poorly maintained or poorly ventilated household appliances like boilers, cookers and fires – both gas and solid fuel, can all be causes of CO poisoning.

Between 1995 and 2015, only 35 per cent of deaths from CO poisoning were actually from mains gas appliances or heating. The majority of deaths were from gas emitted from appliances that burn solid fuel, portable gas bottles and, petrol and diesel.

Did you know that something like a log burner could be a potential cause of CO poisoning?

Carbon monoxide is completely invisible, it has no smell and no taste, so the only definitive way to detect a leak is with a CO alarm.

Yet 43% of us admit we wouldn’t know what to do if there was a CO leak in our home and over 25% of us don’t know that CO has no smell.

Why is this a problem?

Because every year in the UK over 200 people are admitted to hospital with suspected CO poisoning and around 50 people die unnecessarily from it.  The number of people affected could well be much higher, simply because so few of us know what the symptoms of CO poisoning are. An awareness of carbon monoxide is crucial.

One in six of us thinks that a metallic taste in your mouth is a symptom (wrong!) and one in ten of us think a fever would be a symptom (also wrong!)

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are:

  • dizziness
  • headaches
  • nausea & vomiting
  • tiredness & confusion
  • shortness of breath
  • difficulty breathing
  • stomach pain

Now many of these symptoms are similar to the flu so this is why it is vital that medical attention is sought and we do all we can to avoid carbon monoxide leaks in the first place.

This means ensuring we have a fully functioning and correctly installed carbon monoxide alarm.

npower’s research also showed that almost two-thirds of the UK (61.1%) had not had their boilers serviced in the last year. And, one in 14 people who lived in privately rented accommodation (7.3%) who legally should have had a CO alarm fitted by their landlord (because their rented home has an appliance that burns, or is capable of burning solid fuel), did not have one installed.

Carbon Monoxide awareness 2017 infographic

EXCUSES, EXCUSES

The top three reasons people gave to justify not having a CO alarm were: It’s on my to-do list – I just haven’t done it yet (30.3%), I’ve never had one before (27%) and I don’t think I need one (16.7%).

WHEN THERE’S A LEAK

If you suspect you, or someone you know, is suffering from CO poisoning you should:-

  • STOP using all appliances
  • OPEN doors and windows
  • EVACUATE the property immediately
  • CALL the GAS EMERGENCY number on 0800 111 999 to report the incident
  • DO NOT RETURN to the property and
  • SEEK immediate medical help.

For more information about carbon monoxide and to find out how to protect your family, visit: npower.com/co-safety.

59 Comments

  1. Linda Hill
    11 December, 2017 / 11:26 am

    61% of boiler owners do not have their boiler serviced – surely this should be compulsory now we know the devastating results of carbon monoxide poisoning. Certainly all households with such boilers should be fitted with detectors.

  2. M Allen
    10 December, 2017 / 9:49 am

    61% haven’t had their boiler serviced in the past year. I’m guilty and not will do something about it.

  3. Ann Skamarauskas
    10 December, 2017 / 12:34 am

    61%, which, until last month, included us

  4. Sadiyya Maryam
    9 December, 2017 / 10:35 pm

    Many thanks for this important and lifesaving post. The awareness of the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning is so important and worrying that so many people aren’t aware of the seriousness and significance.

  5. Sandra Fortune
    9 December, 2017 / 10:30 pm

    61.1 per cent . Not good .It’s frightening so many people have gas fires. I have a detector but would like a good one for my daughter .

  6. Fiona Johnstone
    9 December, 2017 / 7:57 pm

    61% So easy to forget. Put it on your calendar.

  7. Alison
    9 December, 2017 / 3:56 pm

    Great to raise awareness of this, CO is a silent killer

  8. Jo McPherson
    9 December, 2017 / 7:46 am

    61% ! We have ours serviced every year

  9. Rebecca Sutton
    8 December, 2017 / 10:39 pm

    I think i am in that percentage, but reading some of these posts im going to check regularly now! So sorry to the guys who have suffered due to this.

  10. Elizabeth Smith
    8 December, 2017 / 6:05 pm

    Because we rent the boiler is serviced every year

  11. Caroles
    6 December, 2017 / 11:38 pm

    That reminds me….. I’m going to book a service!

  12. Ruth Harwood
    3 December, 2017 / 12:01 pm

    I’m lucky living in an all-electric maisonette, I think! I’d definitely be one of them if I had gas xx

  13. AMANDA WARD
    1 December, 2017 / 1:19 pm

    61% havent and that is a scary thought!
    i am petrified of Carbon Monoxide and really need to get a detector fitted in my new house!

  14. Mandy
    30 November, 2017 / 9:16 pm

    Our alarms are probably a bit old..need to check before we have the logburner going over Xmas

  15. Hester McQueen
    29 November, 2017 / 10:32 am

    My cousin has very serious health problems because of Carbon Monoxide poisoning.

  16. Dawn Samples
    28 November, 2017 / 11:05 pm

    We have had ours serviced recently as we have had alot of problems with our boiler x

  17. fiona waterworth
    28 November, 2017 / 8:08 pm

    Luckily my husband was in the gas trade so takes no chances knowing all the associated problems

  18. Chrissy Harris
    28 November, 2017 / 7:37 pm

    61% haven’t had their boiler serviced in the last year and unfortunately I am in this category so thank you for raising my awareness

  19. Charlotte
    28 November, 2017 / 4:21 pm

    I think this is such a great topic to get out there its so easy to stop!

  20. Lynda Graham
    28 November, 2017 / 4:04 pm

    Its one of the checks I make along with my smoke alarms. Living ‘solo’ its so important.
    Brilliant to raise awareness.

  21. Rhia
    28 November, 2017 / 3:34 pm

    I’ve been meaning to check my alarms since we moved in (3 months ago!) so I think it’s high time I did…Maybe finding your post is A Sign…

  22. Emma
    28 November, 2017 / 3:19 pm

    Reading some of the comments has made me feel a bit nervous! Off to check my alarms now!

  23. margaret guest
    28 November, 2017 / 2:14 pm

    these should be make compulsory with every boiler great things save so many lives

  24. Lynne Manton
    28 November, 2017 / 2:07 pm

    61.1% – ridiculous when you consider that having a boiler serviced is not massively expensive and the potential cost of not doing so could be utterly devastating!

  25. Nigel Soper
    28 November, 2017 / 12:07 am

    OK 61% of folk have not had their boiler serviced in the last year – maybe some of them have carbon monoxide alarms so they know they don’t need their boiler serviced as it’s not producing Carbon Monoxide………

  26. Leslie Hernandez
    27 November, 2017 / 9:00 pm

    Very interesting read! I have a carbon monoxide detector in my Apartment and it works pretty good. It is important to make sure that any device you use to detect it is working properly because that is so dangerous!

  27. Milly Youngman
    27 November, 2017 / 3:25 pm

    I don’t have one myself and this has made me realise I definitely need one!

  28. Louise
    23 November, 2017 / 12:20 am

    I definitely couldn’t live without our detector. The thought of myself or the kids dying from Carbon Monoxide poisoning always scares the hell out of me! Well done for spreading awareness.

    Louise x

  29. Olivia Thristan
    22 November, 2017 / 6:53 pm

    This post is so important, people need to realise how dangerous it really is. I have an alarm for it in my house and in my opinion it is just as important as a fire alarm. I didn’t know the symptoms of this, so you’ve raised some awareness thank you ! x

  30. Lauretta at Home and Horizon
    22 November, 2017 / 12:31 pm

    Thank you for posting this. We should spread the word, as carbon monoxide risk is definitely something everyone should be aware of.

  31. Kara
    22 November, 2017 / 9:07 am

    We had a gas leak earlier this year and it was very scary at the time. Our engineer pointed out that our alarm was in the wrong place so have moved it now

  32. Angela Milnes
    22 November, 2017 / 3:18 am

    It’s a real danger to be aware of. I do know of someone who sadly passed away due to carbon monoxide poisoning. This is an important post.

  33. Lilinha
    21 November, 2017 / 10:07 pm

    I have a carbon monoxide alarm and I hope we never need to use it. Such an important topic to raise awareness for!

  34. Baby Isabella
    21 November, 2017 / 10:03 pm

    We never knew it was Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month, so off to check out our alarm now. Interesting infographic too!

  35. Emily Leary
    21 November, 2017 / 7:56 pm

    It’s terrifying how easily it could happen to anyone, one really should be in every home, hopefully the numbers do are always going up.

  36. Angela Ricardo Bethea
    21 November, 2017 / 4:27 pm

    With the arrival of my little one I must be extra careful to this kind of stuff. Thanks for the tips, this post was quite informative and helpful.

  37. Melanie
    21 November, 2017 / 2:18 pm

    These facts are shocking and it is great that you are raising awareness of such an important and fatal issue x

  38. Jen
    21 November, 2017 / 1:43 pm

    We have an alarm fitted, and I would always want one. In my previous house I didn’t realise my gas cooker was emitting CO, but I was suffering a lot of headaches and sickness. My friend got me a detector, and within minutes it turned black (which indicated a strong reading). I was horrified. I never used the cooker again after that and have always made sure we have an alarm fitted now. So so important. It is frightening to think it could have been a lot worse, and we had children in the house too. I cannot stress it enough that this is not something to be ignored. Well done you for bringing this to our attention, a good cause.

  39. Danasia Fantastic
    21 November, 2017 / 1:40 pm

    I always knew carbon monoxide was dangerous but I never thought about how important it is to have it a carbon monoxide alarm in my home. Great post!

  40. Samantha Donnelly - StressedMum
    21 November, 2017 / 11:00 am

    This is really something that scares me, and why we have a carbon monoxide alarm, they do not cost a lot to buy and a life saver. I am surprised by how many people do not have these alarms x

  41. Rhian Westbury
    21 November, 2017 / 10:05 am

    It’s so scary how many people carbon monoxide poisoning affects every year. It’s definitely so important to have a carbon monoxide alarm x

  42. Ana De- Jesus
    21 November, 2017 / 12:18 am

    I remember when I was in my third year of university and we were sharing a house. Anyhow we had a faulty boiler that was leaking gas and it took the engineers quite a while to come out and fix it and we were so worried! Luckily we were all ok but its so important to check for carbon monoxide risks!

  43. Jazmin Williams
    20 November, 2017 / 11:39 pm

    I learnt about this really because we have a fire and I was so terrified but we have a monitor and my mother reassured me. This is so important to flag up!

  44. Patrick
    20 November, 2017 / 10:33 pm

    Great post and extremely timely and timeless. In regards to changing your batteries,change them out everytime we do a clock change.

  45. Sarah Bailey
    20 November, 2017 / 7:07 pm

    We have an alarm in our bedroom, just outside the bathroom door as our boiler is in there, so hopefully we would be alerted, but it is scary how dangerous and silent of a killer carbon monoxide is.

  46. Joanna
    20 November, 2017 / 5:25 pm

    I have experienced twice carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty gas heater and almost died. Since then, I never went to sleep again without a carbon monoxide alarm which I would test every week to make sure it works. Luckily now I live in a gas free home.

  47. Lynn Griffiths
    18 November, 2017 / 9:18 am

    It’s #COawarenessMONTH
    Lynn Griffiths
    Poisoned by Carbon Monoxide (CO)88/99
    Became CO-AWARE 99/05
    CO-AWARENESS Charity 05/17unpaid
    29+YEARS
    My story (below) badly needs updating below.

  48. Charli
    18 November, 2017 / 8:17 am

    Great infographic – carbon monoxide is so dangerous. I’m really pleased to say that our alarm is in good working order.
    C x

  49. Nayna Kanabar
    17 November, 2017 / 10:33 pm

    We have a carbon monoxide detector installed in our home as the risks ate too great in case carbon monixide goes undetected.

  50. Gareth Torrance
    17 November, 2017 / 8:01 am

    This is something that always worries me,,, Ad since we should be moving to a new house in a couple of month, I’ll be doing many checks

  51. Michelle Twin Mum
    16 November, 2017 / 10:43 pm

    Thank you so much for raising awareness on this issue, I know of a friend who was being poisoned but luckily realised before it got to the drastic point. Mich x

  52. Fritha Strickland
    16 November, 2017 / 7:26 pm

    I’m terrified about things like this! We got a detector about 6 years ago when I was pregnant for the first time and I’m so glad we have it x

  53. Jenny
    16 November, 2017 / 5:46 pm

    We’ve not had our boiler tested since we bought our house as it’s so old. Thankfully we have the Nest Protect which gives up peace of mind.

  54. 16 November, 2017 / 11:02 am

    My daughter died of carbon monoxide poisoning two months after getting married and shortly after returning to work from her idyllic honeymoon. Sadly, she and her husband had bought a smoke alarm that came with a CO alarm. They installed the smoke alarm but hadn’t got round to installing the carbon monoxide alarm. Please test your alarms regularly, preferably weekly – Test it Tuesday. Preferably install an alarm on each level of your home. Remember that if there is an adjoining property – carbon monoxide can come through to your home from that property. We also take an alarm with us whenever staying away from home. It’s important to have all your carbon burning appliances serviced regularly by a registered engineer. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms have a shelf life – check the date on your alarms and replace when either the date end is reached or the CO test doesn’t work any more.

    • linda
      Author
      16 November, 2017 / 11:27 am

      Avril, I’m so sorry and thank you for sharing this.

  55. Super Busy Mum
    16 November, 2017 / 9:46 am

    Something we should all be aware of, thanks so much for raising awareness!! x

  56. Elise Cohen Ho
    15 November, 2017 / 11:26 pm

    I have a detector but it seems to have a mind of its own. I wonder if it is even accurate. Perhaps I need to go shopping.

  57. Nicola
    15 November, 2017 / 9:15 pm

    It is really so scary how deadly carbon monoxide is. One of the 1st things we bought when moving into our new home was a carbon monoxide detector.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *