On Facebook last week we asked True or False questions about Carbon Monoxide, straight from the Gas Safe Register’s Gas Engineer Magazine. We hoped that we would be able to bust some myths about carbon monoxide and get people to discuss some of the possibly lesser known risk factors.
On Monday we asked True or False: Smoke from cigarettes doesn’t produce CO.
Answer: FALSE. Maybe not so surprisingly to those of you who have seen health warning about cigarettes listing CO as one of many harmful substances in cigarette smoke, but cigarettes aren’t commonly mentioned when we think about CO. Remember, any hydrocarbon fuel can produce CO when combustion is incomplete – this includes tobacco.
On Tuesday we asked True or False: It isn’t safe to take a portable stove or barbecue inside a tent or caravan without any ventilation.
Answer: TRUE. We’ve mentioned this one before, so if you were listening you would know. Portable barbeques are great out in the open where there’s enough oxygen to make sure you can have complete combustion and where any incomplete combustion will be blown away. In a restricted area like a tent or a caravan there’s a higher chance of CO build up.
Wednesday brought us the True or False question: Chimneys can get blocked by a bird’s nest or plants.
Answer: TRUE. We’ve seen this one before as well. Without proper ventilation through your chimney allowing complete combustion and the products of combustion to escape from your house, you could be in big trouble with possible CO poisoning. This applies to gas, wood, coal and any other hydrocarbon fuel. Check them regularly, especially if you have any signs of CO poisoning.
Thursday rolled around quicker than we expected with the question True or False: A CO detector that changes colour to black when there are high levels is all you need to protect you against CO.
Answer: Very Much FALSE. A “black-spot” detector does detect CO and can warn you, but only if you’re looking at it. As I don’t have someone in my house to look at the CO detector 24/7, I find it’s best to have an audible one that will wake you up or make you take notice if you’re out of the room. For the sake of £20-30 in a DIY shop, it isn’t worth the wages of the person to sit and watch out for a black spot. Click here for our guide on where to place CO alarms. If your alarm does go off, turn off your appliances if you can, open windows and/or go outside, and call the emergency number 0800 111 999.
We had that Friday feeling, but still asked you True or False: Cookers, boilers and heaters should be checked once a year by a registered engineer to minimise the risk of them leaking CO.
Answer: TRUE. The best way to keep your appliances healthy and completely combusting is to have them serviced yearly from the time that they’re installed. A gas engineer can come and perform a check to make sure that your appliances aren’t leaking CO into your house, and look to perform any necessary repairs for you if they think they will need them to be able to remain safe to use. A check starts at £60 + VAT from Primus, and we have appointments available to fit around you. This check doesn’t replace your CO alarm, it just minimises the risk. For best results have both a yearly check and a CO alarm in case something goes wrong in between engineer visits.
So that’s some myths busted about CO. CO is still the silent killer, and although deaths are dropping, they’re still not at 0. Know the warning signs, know the symptoms, and make sure that there are batteries in your CO alarms. Landlords now have to fit CO alarms in any room where there is a solid-fuel burning appliance, and test that they work, so insist on this if you have this kind of heater in your rented property. You’re always better safe than sorry.