Housing Enforcement

Carbon Monoxide

Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations

The Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations (England) came into force on 01/10/2015 and they require certain types of rented accommodation to be provided with smoke detectors and, if necessary, Carbon Monoxide detectors.  View the Isle of Wight Council Enforcement Policy  (PDF, 9.92KB, 1 page).  Additionally, further information can be found in the Governments explanatory booklet  (PDF, 218.53KB, 11 pages).

Carbon Monoxide – The Basics

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is commonly termed “The Silent Killer” as it has no smell, taste or colour, and it can kill without warning in just a matter of hours.  Every year about 30 people die, whilst many others also suffer ill health, from Carbon Monoxide poisoning caused by any fossil fuel burning appliance (i.e. gas, coal, diesel, oil, wood…etc) and the associated flues and chimneys that have not been properly installed or maintained.  When a fossil fuel does not burn properly, excess CO is produced which is poisonous. 

How this can lead to a problem

It can leak from flues and cooking and heating appliances when they have been poorly maintained or simply break down.  Inadequate ventilation or blocked flues are frequently to blame but even adverse weather conditions have been the reason behind leaks that have proven fatal.  Leaks can be caused by many potential sources and are not always directly related to an appliance malfunction.

Modern housing insulation techniques, such as double-glazed windows, can exaggerate a problem by effectively creating an airtight environment.

What does it does

When we breathe in air, vital oxygen is absorbed by the blood and transported around our body. Blood contains a special substance called “haemoglobin” which is used to carry the oxygen. Unfortunately, haemoglobin will carry Carbon Monoxide in preference to oxygen.  When we breathe in air containing Carbon Monoxide, the Carbon Monoxide replaces the oxygen and in effect, we suffocate from the inside.

How it could affect you

You are particularly at risk when you are asleep because you cannot recognise the early symptoms of CO poisoning. These include tiredness, drowsiness, headaches, giddiness, nausea, vomiting, pains in the chest, breathlessness, stomach pains, erratic behavior and visual problems. These symptoms can mimic many common ailments and may easily be confused as flu, or simple tiredness. It can kill quickly when it leaks in large quantities or can build up over a period of time.

These symptoms could be incorrectly diagnosed by the medical profession as flu. Ultimately, if the brain does not get sufficient oxygen it will cease to function correctly, causing death.

What you should do if you think it is affecting you

If you or your family experience the above symptoms and you believe CO may be involved you must seek urgent medical advice. Your doctor will need to test you for a blood or breath sample. Be aware, CO quickly leaves the blood and tests may be inaccurate if taken more than four hours after exposure has ceased.

Things that may indicate you are at risk

You could be at risk if:

  • Your appliance was poorly installed.
  • Your appliance is not working properly.
  • Your appliance has not been checked for safety or maintained regularly.
  • There is not enough fresh air in the room.
  • Your chimney or flue gets blocked up.
  • You allow non- “Gas Safe” registered engineers to install or maintain your gas burning appliance(s) Signs to look for in the home.

 

There are a number of ‘early warning’ signs to look for

  • Yellow or brown staining around, or on appliances.
  • Pilot lights that frequently blow out.
  • Increased condensation inside windows.
  • Yellow rather than blue flame (apart from flue less fires).

 

How to detect an issue

There are different ways of detecting CO, including the use of electronic detectors (which are similar in appearance to a battery powered smoke detector) and also CO patch detectors (which work by changing colour if exposed to excess CO.

What you should if you detect CO

If your alarm goes off, or you notice that your CO detector patch has discoloured you should:

  • Ventilate the room containing the appliance (i.e. open windows/ doors)
  • Turn off/ put out the fuel burning appliance
  • Vacate the area leaving the appliance off/ out and windows/ doors open
  • Seek immediate medical advice for any persons who could be suffering from exposure to CO
  • Contact (if applicable) your fuel provider and explain the issue
  • Contact a relevant expert (i.e. for gas appliances a “Gas Safe” registered contractor and explain the issue) and if you are a tenant contact your letting agent or landlord
  • Do not re-enter the affected area until the alarm has ceased to sound
  • Carry out all required works to the appliance before using it again

Important advice for consumers who have flues which run in ceiling spaces

If you have a boiler where all, or part of, the flue cannot be seen, you, or your Landlord, will need to arrange for inspection hatches to be fitted. This does not mean that your flue system is suddenly unsafe. As long as the boiler passes a series of safety checks – including having audible carbon monoxide alarms fitted – it can be used for the time being.

Carbon monoxide alarms are not an alternative to being able to see the flue and you will still need to have inspection hatches fitted. You have until 31 December 2012 for this work to be completed. It is recommended that inspection hatches are fitted as soon as you are able to do so. From 1 January 2013, any Gas Safe Registered engineer will turn the boiler off and formally advise you not to use it until inspection hatches have been fitted in appropriate places.

For further information please visit the Gas Safe Register website .

Carbon Monoxide does not just affect the Home

It has been widely publicised in the recent media that Carbon Monoxide does not just affect the home, and Carbon Monoxide awareness is important in a number of recreational situations as well, including camping and sailing. For more information please visit the Carbon Monoxide Awareness website .

Further information

The information on this page is for guidance only. Manufacturers guidelines and advice should be followed regarding the installation and maintenance of all types of CO detectors and alarms. For further specialised advice and information it is recommended that you visit/ contact the following organisations:

CO-Gas Safety
Website:
www.gassaferegister.co.uk/
Tel: 01372  466135            

HSE
Website:
 www.hse.gov.uk
Tel: 0800 300 363 (Freephone service)

COAwareness
Website:
 www.covictim.org

Rospa
Website:
www.rospa.com