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SILENT KILLER: Carbon monoxide warning with more people at home in lockdown

SILENT KILLER: Carbon monoxide warning with more people at home in lockdown

Image: LDRS

A “SILENT killer” lurking in Teesside homes has prompted a fresh warning with more people at home during lockdown.

About 60 people die every year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales.

And worry about the potentially deadly gas has sparked a Stockton Council probe into what it can do to flag up dangers.

Carbon monoxide has no smell or taste – and when breathed in, it mixes with the haemoglobin in your blood which carries oxygen around your body.

This stops blood being able to carry oxygen to cells causing them to fail and die.

This makes it deadly at high levels.

Carbon monoxide is formed when fuels, such as gas, oil, coal and wood, do not burn fully – and it can be a danger from faulty appliances such as cookers, heaters and central heating boilers.

Council officer Rebecca Saunders-Thompson told councillors the gas was known as a “silent killer”.

“We’re all aware we’re dealing with a global pandemic at the moment but it’s still important to raise awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning,” she added.

“It’s especially important at this time of year when it’s colder and people are more likely to use appliances such as their heating or a fire.

“More people are in their homes at the moment because of the lockdown.”

Tension-type headaches tend to be the most common symptoms of mild carbon monoxide poisoning with other symptoms from low level exposure mirroring symptoms of food poisoning or flu.

A council report warned these symptoms gradually get worse with prolonged exposure which can lead to a delay in diagnosis.

“Your symptoms may be less severe when you’re away from the source of the carbon monoxide,” it added.

“If this is the case, you should investigate the possibility of a carbon monoxide leak and ask a suitably qualified professional to check any appliances you think may be faulty and leaking gas.

“The longer you inhale the gas, the worse your symptoms will be.

“You may lose balance, vision and memory and, eventually, you may lose consciousness.”

Reputable and registered engineers are key 

Blocked flues and chimneys can stop carbon monoxide escaping – and running a car engine in an enclosed space can also generate problems.

Meeting reports also warned smoking shisha pipes indoors –  which burn charcoal and tobacco – can lead to a build-up of carbon monoxide in enclosed or unventilated rooms.

The panel was told appliances should be installed and regularly serviced by reputable, registered engineers – such as Gas Safe for gas devices, HETAS for solid fuel appliances, and OFTEC for oil based heaters.

Councillors heard how fitting alarms on the ceiling in rooms with appliances, and on walls at least half a foot away from the top of the wall, were good ways of ensuring early warnings worked.

Gary Knight, from the council’s private sector housing team, said it responded to complaints from tenants – and tried to work with landlords.

He told the panel landlords had to ensure gas appliances were checked and certified annually.

They also had a responsibility to ensure a carbon monoxide alarm was fitted in every room with a solid fuel burning appliance.

Fines of up to £5,000 can be issued by councils if landlords don’t comply with authority notices on installing alarms.

The review by the people select committee will continue next month.

Safety tips (source: Stockton Council)

  • Never use ovens or gas ranges to heat your home.
  • Never use oversized pots on your gas stove or place foil around the burners.
  • Make sure rooms are well ventilated and do not block air vents.
  • If your home is double glazed or draught proofed, make sure there’s still enough air circulating for any heaters that are in the room.
  • Do not use gas-powered equipment and tools inside your home if you can avoid it. Only use them in a well-ventilated area, and put the engine unit and exhaust outside.
  • Always wear a safety mask when using chemicals that contain methylene chloride.
  • Do not burn charcoal in an enclosed space, such as on an indoor barbecue.
  • Do not sleep in a room that has an unflued gas fire or paraffin heater.
  • Fit an extractor fan in your kitchen (if it does not already have one)

Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter


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