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Carbon monoxide is a very simple molecule, being just one part oxygen and one part carbon. However, it’s often referred to as “the silent killer” due to it having no smell or taste, plus you can’t see it with the naked eye. According to the NHS, there are around 60 deaths from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning every year in England and Wales, as well as many more people suffering nasty symptoms as a result of inhaling it.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide forms when a carbon fuel doesn’t burn in its entirety. This includes fuels such as wood, coal, propane, oil and, you guessed it, the natural gas that your boiler runs on. When these substances are burnt outdoors there’s plenty of open air for the carbon monoxide to escape into, but if you have a leak in your home it’s a different story completely.
What are the effects?
When you inhale carbon monoxide, it binds with your red blood cells and starves the body of oxygen. However, rather than choking on it, it slowly poisons your system and brings multiple early symptoms. These include:
As a result, people who are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning often think they have a cold, food poisoning or the flu, which can be easy to ignore. More recently, people exhibiting some of these symptoms may think they have coronavirus.
What happens next?
The more carbon monoxide you breath and the longer you’re exposed to it, the more ill you will become. Your balance, vision and memory can be greatly impeded, alongside neurological symptoms such as difficulty thinking, lack of concentration and severe mood swings.
Adding to the danger is the fact that temporarily moving away from the leak could cause you to feel better, only to then become ill again when you return. This can be very confusing for the individual and result in diagnosis and treatment being delayed.
Where does the carbon monoxide come from?
The most common source of a carbon monoxide leak is the boiler, although it could also originate from within a gas fire, water heater, gas cooker or even the wider central heating system.
What should I do if I’ve been exposed to it?
If you believe you or a member of your household have been exposed to low levels of carbon monoxide, you should consult your GP. If you believe it’s high levels, go to A&E immediately.
As for the safety of your home, you need to book a boiler service right away and also have a carbon monoxide detector installed. Whilst the engineer will assess the system and fix any problems, the carbon monoxide detector works all year round to pick up any traces of it in the air. These small, battery-operated devices are highly effective at keeping families safe from avoidable carbon monoxide poisoning, making them an essential addition to your home.
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Our professional engineers here at ProTech are Gas Safe registered and specialise in carrying out high-quality boiler services. To book a service or an emergency repair, fill in our online form or call 01482 352643.