Your safety

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide kills.

You can't see it, taste it, or smell it.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is difficult to detect because it is colourless and has no taste or smell. People often don't realise that they are being overcome by fumes until it is too late.

What is carbon monoxide and how is it produced?

Carbon Monoxide is a highly poisonous gas that has no colour, taste or smell. Fuel burning appliances such as stoves, fires, boilers and water heaters can produce carbon monoxide if they are incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained or if flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.

Gas, oil and solid fuels such as coal and wood can all produce carbon monoxide.

Too many people die needlessly or become seriously ill because of carbon monoxide poisoning each year, early symptoms can easily be mistaken for flu or tiredness.

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness 
  • Breathlessness
  • Collapsing
  • Loss of consciousness

Symptoms are similar to the flu, food poisoning, viral infections and tiredness.  It can be easy to mistake the symptoms for something less serious.

If you experience symptoms or your CO alarm sounds:

  • Open doors and windows
  • Get fresh air immediately
  • Leave the house
  • Call the emergency services
  • Seek medical advice, if feeling unwell

For more information, visit the NHS website.

How can I stay safe?

  • Install an audible Carbon Monoxide alarm
  • Don't  block the ventilation
  • Know the signs of Carbon Monoxide poisoning
  • Service your fuel burning appliances regularly with a registered engineer

Detection - Carbon Monoxide alarms

It's really important to fit a Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm in all rooms containing fuel burning appliances, ensuring that the alarm is able to be heard throughout your home. When sleeping, it is important that your alarm would wake you if it sounds. You therefore may wish to keep a CO alarm in the bedroom. It's also a good idea to familiarise yourself with our information below about the signs of CO poisoning, and learn what to do if you suspect someone may be affected.

  • Get your CO alarm/s from a reputable DIY store or supermarket.
  • Only buy alarms that have been certified to British Standard EN50291 and have the British or European approval mark.
  • If purchasing an alarm for a houseboat or caravan, please note that they need to comply with a different British standard: BS EN50291-2.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how and where to fit.
  • Alarms should be placed in any room that has a fuel burning appliance.
  • They will alert you if there is a presence of CO and allow you to escape.
  • Take a free-standing alarm with you when you go away on holiday - whether you are staying in a hotel, boat, tent or caravan.