Carbon Monoxide – still the silent killer
Deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning are inevitably associated with bedsit land, unscrupulous landlords and dangerous gas appliances. We all remember reading tragic stories of young people living in grotty bedsits succumbing to carbon monoxide – still the silent killer as a result of faulty gas water heaters or incorrectly installed gas fires. Thankfully such stories are becoming rarer as legislation has forced landlords to take their responsibilities seriously.
that’s one less danger we have to be concerned about? In fact carbon monoxide poisoning continues to pose a significant threat to any household with oil or gas fired central heating, an open fire, wood burning stove or range and even the latest technology in domestic heating – the biomass wood pellet boiler. Hopefully most households will have their gas, oil or wood pellet central heating boiler serviced regularly by a competent person to minimise any risks to health and ensure efficient operation. But what about those of us with open fires or wood burning and/or multifuel stoves? Are we at risk?
Carbon Monoxide – still the silent killer
Carbon monoxide is released during the combustion of any fuel. The very flames we so admire and relax gratefully in front of are in fact a chemical process. What you are witnessing is carbon monoxide being changed to carbon dioxide and eventually being released to the atmosphere. It really does not take much for that efficient combustion process to falter and allow potentially lethal fumes to be released into your sitting room. Toxic carbon monoxide levels can occur suddenly or accumulate slowly over time.
There is a very sad story on the web involving an elderly couple. The husband experienced long term hospitalisation as a result of a stroke. He had previously taken responsibility for their open coal fire, sweeping the chimney himself on a regular basis. Whilst he was in hospital the chimney remained unswept and his wife tragically died as a result of poisonous carbon monoxide fumes.
A very sad tale but not relevant to you? You don’t have an open fire and you certainly don’t burn house coal. You’re one of the 19000 households in the UK every month who install a stove. You paid a small fortune to have it fitted by an approved installer and have a certificate to prove how safe it is. Besides, it would be obvious if anything were wrong as you’d smell smoke and get that installer back asap!
A couple of points:
A stove, no matter how well it was first installed is only as safe as the person operating it.
Carbon monoxide – still the silent killer is odourless, tasteless and invisible. Those poisonous fumes can be released into your home; you and even your dog will not be aware of the danger. Given enough fumes, you and everyone you care about will be at risk and young children are particularly vulnerable. Exposure to lesser concentrations can result in flu like symptoms, dizzyness, fatigue and breathlessness.
A well maintained stove or open fire, burning the correct type of fuel is a joy to witness and perfectly safe.
To make sure it remains perfectly safe:
Sweep your chimney on a regular basis.
Twice a year if you’re burning wood and once a year if burning smokeless fuel are the recommended intervals. Chimney sweeps have come a long way since the days of Dick Van Dyke and Mary Poppins. Most chimney sweeps are members of professional associations with public liability insurance, modern equipment and training and will issue a certificate confirming that your chimney/flue has been serviced in accordance with British Standards. A list of approved chimney sweeps in your area can be found on the HETAS website.
Burn the correct fuel.
Burning the correct fuel, particularly in a modern stove, is vitally important in ensuring not only efficient operation but your safety too. More information can be found HERE
Thermaheat in Kelso, well known and respected stove installers, keep a section of stove pipe in their showroom to show customers just what can happen if the wrong type of fuel is burnt. Fortunately for the customer concerned, who was burning unseasoned wood, the problem was identified early enough to prevent disaster. Their showroom is well worth a visit if only to see the wonderful range of appliances on offer. Incidentally, the blockage occurred within a matter of weeks!
Install a carbon monoxide alarm.
These days carbon monoxide alarms are readily available and inexpensive to buy. There really is no excuse not to install one, preferably more than one if your home is on two or more floors. If you prefer, we can arrange for Firestop Safety, fire safety engineers based in Berwick upon Tweed, to install them for you. Please contact us for further details.