One of the biggest dangers of central heating systems in our homes is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Gas systems put us at risk because they are able to leak and explode and with the lit pilot light there is the chance of an explosion which can cause serious damage to homes and those people living in them. However much more dangerous to us is a carbon monoxide leak. This odourless, tasteless, colourless gas is responsible for the illness and death of many people around the world.
Carbon monoxide prevents oxygen reaching the brain, internal organs, tissue and muscles. According to official government sources, 20 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning coming from their central heating and those that survive but inhale a large amount of the gas can suffer from brain damage and paralysis. Carbon Monoxide can kill quickly, so it is important that you go into an open space if you start to feel ill and have your home checked for gas.
You can buy carbon monoxide alarms that will alert you if there are dangerously high levels of the gas in your home. These should be audible and not just a visible alarm. This is because gas leaks can occur at night and you may become so ill whilst you are sleeping that you die. An alarm that makes a loud noise to warn you will save your life. However a visible alarm will not be able to do warn you about the high amounts of gas whilst you are asleep.
The alarm should comply with the British Standard EN 50291 and have an approval mark which is recognised in the UK or EU. Without this, you may be buying an alarm that will not work when you need it the most.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include tiredness, drowsiness, headaches, nausea and vomiting, breathlessness, chest pains, stomach pains and visual impairment. If you or anyone in your house begins to experience any of these symptoms then you should seek medical help immediately, open the windows and doors in your house and vacate the property into outside air.
If there is a positive to carbon monoxide, it is that the gas leaves the body very quickly. So once you leave the effected building you should see your health return to normal. That is as long as the symptoms have not permanently caused damage.
If you are getting new central heating make sure that you check to see if the appliance is registered as carbon monoxide safe. Ensure that the engineer who fits the system is registered with Gas Safe and ask for an audible alarm to be fitted to your home.