Any appliance that burns fuel produces carbon monoxide, which means that carbon monoxide is produced in nearly every household across the country. Unfortunately, it’s tasteless, colourless, odourless, and impossible for us as humans to detect. Therefore, we rely on detectors to alert us if there are dangerous levels of carbon monoxide inside our homes or workplaces. If undetected, carbon monoxide fumes could poison us without us even realising. Long term, or concentrated exposure can be fatal.
What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Carbon monoxide poisoning happens when combustion fumes are inhaled. The body replaces the oxygen in the red blood cells with carbon monoxide which prevents oxygen from reaching the tissues and organs. When appliances (such as gas boilers for example) are improperly ventilated, particularly and especially in enclosed spaces, carbon monoxide can accumulate to dangerous levels. This can result in headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, confusion, blurred vision, loss of consciousness and even death.
Who is most at risk from Carbon Monoxide poisoning?
Exposure to carbon monoxide at any level can be particularly dangerous for the following demographic:
- People with health conditions such as heart disease and breathing problems. They are far more susceptible to the effects of exposure and are likely to suffer with illnesses linked to carbon monoxide poisoning as opposed to a healthy person.
- Unborn babies are at risk as foetal blood cells absorb carbon monoxide more easily than adult blood cells do. Young children take breaths more rapidly than adults, so are more at risk from poisoning.
- Older adults who are exposed to carbon monoxide are more likely to develop brain damage than younger adults.
Precautions for Prevention
- Install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your building whether it’s home or work.
- Use gas appliance as manufacturers recommend; a gas stove or oven is not a means to heat your home! Camping equipment such as camp stoves are meant for the outdoors only, as are generators.
- Ventilate your fuel burning appliances, such as space heaters, barbecues, water heaters, boilers, engines, generators. If you have a working fireplace, have the chimney or flue cleaned regularly (at least once a year).
How do carbon monoxide detectors work?
There are several types of detector, using either electrochemical sensors, biomimetic sensors, or metal oxide semiconductors. The presence of carbon monoxide in the air triggers an alarm on the device alerting people before levels reach a dangerous stage.
Where is the best location to install a detector?
Carbon monoxide detectors rely on correct placement to be effective. Installed in the wrong place, they could be rendered useless.
Carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air, so distributes evenly through the atmosphere. For best results they should be positioned at least 5 feet above the floor, or 2 or 3 feet below the ceiling level. To avoid false readings they should also be placed well away from windows and vents and fixed position fan and fan heaters, as these can all interfere with the accuracy of carbon monoxide level if it is present. Can everyone in your house or building hear the alarm? Placing detectors near to bedrooms or sleeping quarters is imperative so that any sleeping people will be woken by the alarm should it be activated. If you occupy more than one floor, then detectors will need to be installed on each floor.
If you have garages attached to your property then additional detectors need to be placed nearby. Never leave your car running inside the garage, especially when the door is closed. Always open the door before starting the engine.
Here at Swift, we can offer advice on all your fire safety queries. You can find more information here, or call us on 01733 602955.