Fire services urge you to protect yourself from carbon monoxide
Do you know that Carbon Monoxide is a highly poisonous gas that has no colour, taste or smell?
It can be produced by appliances that use gas, wood, oil or coal. Carbon Monoxide can also be present in smoke from solid fuel or oil appliances.
Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service remind you that Carbon Monoxide is potentially fatal and even low-levels of the poison can cause lasting damage to your health.
Do you have a Carbon Monoxide detector in your home?
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Get your chimneys swept and don’t block ventilation.
It is dangerous to block ventilation to your fuel-burning appliances as this can lead to Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Fuel-burning appliances need a consistent supply of air in order for complete combustion to occur and for the appliance to work correctly.
If you are concerned about drafts in your home, you should speak to your installation specialist who may be able to recommend a different location in your home for the appliance to be relocated.
If you use a solid fuel burning appliance you should have your chimney swept at least once a year, preferably before each winter, as birds’ nests, falling stonework and rubble, also spider webs and leaves can block chimneys and stop or reduce the flow of air.
Any blockage can alter the combustion balance or can cause carbon monoxide to enter the home instead of being safely vented from the property outside.
Lee Shepherd a wholetime firefighter from Barnstaple Fire Station, is also a qualified and registered chimney sweep.
Lee explains what can go wrong if people don't look after their chimneys: “I've been sweeping chimneys in North Devon since 2007, to date I have issued over 700 chimney certificates, and given a lot of advice and learnt a lot along the way.
“Recently one of my elderly customers was suffering from severe headaches for more than five years, and was prescribed various medications for this from her GP. Her routine would be to sit in front of the gas fire every night, then going off to bed feeling very sleepy around 9pm.
“What her GP didn't know was that she was suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, as the gas fire chimney had a large nest restricting the vent of fumes and gases escaping.”
Appliances that are properly installed and serviced and have sufficient ventilation are efficient and safe.
The early symptoms:
Recognising the early symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning will save your life.
Our blood has a component called haemoglobin, which normally absorbs oxygen in our lungs and carries it to the rest of the body. But haemoglobin absorbs Carbon Monoxide 240 times more easily than it does oxygen.
So, when we inhale Carbon Monoxide from the air, it is this toxic gas, rather than oxygen that attaches itself to the haemoglobin, starving the body of oxygen.
The smaller the person, the more quickly the body can be overcome by the effects of Carbon Monoxide.
The symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning are similar to the ‘flu’. They can include:
• stomach pains
• chest pains
If you experience these symptoms but feel better when you are outside or away from the appliance, you could be suffering from Carbon Monoxide poisoning.