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.
Carbon Monoxide can be produced by any combustion appliance, including those that burn fossil fuels. If you have one of these appliances you should make sure that it is serviced and maintained by a competent person and the chimney is regularly swept.
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 or dizziness
- loss of consciousness
- pains in the chest or stomach
- erratic behaviour
- visual problems
If you or your family experience any of the above symptoms and believe you may have been exposed to carbon monoxide, you should seek urgent medical advice from either your GP or an A&E department.
What can you do to protect against CO?
- Ensure your chimney is swept regularly by a trained and registered sweep. I will make many extra checks on your chimney as standard.
- Ensure that the fire has adequate ventilation. Don’t block vents. Guild chimney sweeps are trained to check ventilation on every job and detail the results on your certificate.
- Use registered installers for fitting solid fuelled appliances.
- Fit audible Carbon Monoxide alarms
A chimney fire can often be the result of a heavily tarred up flue. A fire occurs when the tar deposits ignite and burn uncontrolably within the flue – damage is often not restricted simply to the chinmey stack but spreads to roofing and structural parts of the building.
The best prevention for chimney fires is to have the chimney swept regularly and by a professional.
Sweeping interval guide
The sweeping interval guide below gives you an idea of how often your chimney needs to be swept.
|Fuel type||Sweeping frequency|
Once per year