Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – The Essential Facts

It’s invisible, you can’t hear it or smell it, but carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer responsible for several deaths each year.

This highly toxic gas, produced by defective and unsafe gas appliances such as your boiler, attacks without warning. But as fatal as it may be, carbon monoxide poisoning is preventable, and there are a few things you can do to keep your home healthy and safe.

The best way to avoid leakage of carbon monoxide at home is to ensure that the boiler is in good repair with a service every year. Registered gas engineers are required to conduct annual maintenance and safety inspections.

This not only keeps the system running efficiently, saving you money, but also ensures that any potential leaks are discovered and fixed before they become a danger.

Eight Things You Need to Know About Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Here are the eight essential things you need to know about carbon monoxide poisoning and what you can do to avoid risks.

1. Central Heating System Problems

The most common sources of carbon monoxide leaks in households come from faulty central heating systems and gas appliances, such as gas fires.

2. Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Despite carbon monoxide poisoning being difficult to detect, there are a few symptoms that should be noted. The six main symptoms are headache, dizziness, dyspnea, nausea, collapse, and coma.

3. Not To Be Confused With Food Poisoning

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often confused with food poisoning, viral infections, and even influenza. Severe intoxication can lead to confusion, rapid and irregular heart rate, convulsions and memory loss, confusion, and even complete loss of consciousness.

4. Those At Most Risk

Children and the elderly are at greater risk. Pets can also be affected, so if you have dogs or cats with similar symptoms, then carbon monoxide poisoning may be responsible.

5. Signs of Carbon Monoxide At Home

Is there any sign of carbon monoxide poisoning in your house? For example, if the pilot light goes off frequently, if your windows have more condensation than usual, or if there are abnormal dark spots around or on your boiler.

6. Carbon Monoxide Detector

Install carbon monoxide alarms if you do not have any. They are relatively inexpensive, costing between £20 – £40, alarms are available in most hardware shops.

7. Regular Boiler Service

Remember, those small problems can become a severe issue, and a faulty boiler or central heating system can be fatal. So be sure to get a registered engineer to repair your heating system and gas appliances regularly.

The Most Common Myths – Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (co2) is a toxic substance produced by a boiler when carbon-based organic fuels, such as natural gas or oil, do not burn completely. Carbon monoxide is generated when there is not enough oxygen in the combustion chamber.

Carbon monoxide gas has no colour, taste, or smell, which means it is difficult to detect, but can still be deadly. When breathing carbon monoxide, it compromises the behaviour of hemoglobin, which is responsible for the delivery of oxygen around the human body. Although breathing lower levels of carbon monoxide over a sustained period may not cause death, it can have very adverse health effects, such as paralysis or brain damage.

What Causes Carbon Monoxide Leakage?

Carbon monoxide leaks are usually caused by inadequate ventilation or the poor maintenance of appliances. You need to ensure that chimneys, boiler flues, and vents are not blocked or broken in any way. Regular maintenance of gas appliances by a registered gas engineer can help identify any carbon monoxide and prevent imminent danger.

A carbon monoxide safety alert that complies with the UK and European standards is desirable as an additional safety precaution. It is important to note that this can only be a complement to regular inspections and repairs, not regular inspections and repairs.

Modern carbon monoxide alarms that comply with the latest EU standards can be found in most hardware shops. While they are a great idea, they should be used in addition to regular inspections and not instead of.

Signs That Indicate An Issue With Your Boiler

Here are several (but not a complete list) signs that there is an issue with combustion in your boiler, which can lead to the production of carbon monoxide.

  • Yellow or orange instead of blue flame (except for fuel-like fires or fluid-free appliances showing flashes of this colour)
  • Soot or yellow/brown spots around or on the appliance
  • The pilot light goes off randomly
  • Increases in window condensation

If you suspect that your device has filtered carbon monoxide (or your carbon monoxide alarm goes off), you should immediately follow these steps:

  1. Turn all appliances off and open the doors and windows to ventilate your property
  2. Immediate evacuation: stay calm and avoid an increased heart rate
  3. Call a gas registered engineer
  4. Do not return to your home – wait for advice for emergency services
  5. Seek medical help immediately: you may not notice that you are affected by carbon monoxide, going outdoors itself will not treat carbon monoxide poisoning

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

There are six main symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, which should be taken into account:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Lack of Breath
  • Fainting
  • Loss of Consciousness

Remember, carbon monoxide is not called the silent killer for nothing, and it is very easy to misinterpret these symptoms, so you should also pay attention to other indicators, including:

  • The symptoms only occur whilst you’re home.
  • The symptoms are not severe when you out of your home
  • Other people at home have similar symptoms (including pets)

If you have any symptoms or believe there may be a risk of carbon monoxide leakage, follow these steps as soon as possible.


Prevention is the best way to combat the risk of carbon monoxide. You should always make sure that you have a regular boiler service form a registered local engineer.

Installing a carbon monoxide alarm (which is relatively cheap in your local hardware shop) is also an effective additional measure to provide an early warning sign of carbon monoxide in your home.

Last Updated on May 3, 2021

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Last Updated on May 3, 2021


Author: Indra Gupta

Indra is an in-house writer with a love of Newcastle United and all things sustainable.

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