Skip the NI Direct Bar

Topics: Carbon Monoxide


Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil, wood and coal. Carbon-based fuels are safe to use. It is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess CO is produced, which is poisonous. When CO enters the body, it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs.

You can't see it, taste it or smell it but CO can kill quickly without warning.

If you have appliances that use fossil fuels, make sure they are serviced and maintained regularly and by a competent person.

Ask the Expert here   Resources on this topic can be downloaded here

Key Messages/Current Issues:

  • Detectors

    A carbon monoxide detector or CO detector is a device that detects the presence of the carbon monoxide (CO) gas in order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

    CO detectors are designed to measure CO levels over time and sound an alarm before dangerous levels of CO accumulate in an environment, giving people adequate warning to safely ventilate the area or evacuate. Some system-connected detectors also alert a monitoring service that can dispatch emergency services if necessary.

    In the home, some common sources of CO include open flames, space heaters, water heaters, blocked chimneys or running a car inside a garage.

  • Symptoms

    Early symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can mimic many common ailments and may easily be confused with food poisoning, viral infections, flu or simple tiredness.

    Symptoms to look out for include:

    • headaches
    • breathlessness
    • nausea
    • dizziness
    • collapse
    • loss of consciousness
    • tiredness
    • drowsiness
    • vomiting
    • pains in the chest
    • stomach pains
    • erratic behavior
    • visual problems

    Chimney sweep fined for pensioner's death

    A chimney sweep has been sentenced after his failure to remove a bird's nest blocking a chimney flue led to the death of a pensioner in his South Wales home.

    Click here for the full story.

  • Safety Measures

    Ensure your appliances are correctly installed and serviced annually.

    Ensure that rooms in your home containing heating appliances are properly ventilated – never block vents.

    Make sure all chimneys are regularly swept and kept clear.

    Use appliances only for the purpose for which they were designed, e.g. do not use a cooker to heat a room.

    Never use any appliance if you suspect it might be faulty.

    If undertaking alterations to your home which may affect the safety or efficiency of your heating installation follow this safety advice:

    • Do not block or build around any existing air vents or flues.
    • If creating a new living space, ensure it has ventilation in accordance with Building Regulations.
    • If adding additional radiators ensure that your boiler can cope with the additional capacity.
    • If you are altering or adding appliances to a natural gas or LPG installation, ensure that work is carried out to the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2004.

    Get professional advice on ventilation and flueing before embarking on alterations to your house. Contact your fuel supplier for details of qualified personnel.

Key Legislation

Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2004

Please note that these links are to the original legislation, visitors should verify for themselves whether legislation is in force or whether it has been amended or repealed by subsequent legislation.