Carbon Monoxide Awareness

Carbon Monoxide Awareness

Carbon Monoxide awareness week was launched by CO-Awareness, a registered charity that supports many victims of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning, their families and friends.  We’ve put together their useful myth buster information.

What is carbon monoxide?

The physical properties of carbon monoxide are:

  • It is a colourless, odourless, neutral, gaseous oxide, which is highly poisonous.
  • It is sparingly soluble in water, but is soluble in ethanol and in benzene.
  • It has a relative density that is similar to air.
  • The chemical properties of carbon monoxide are that it is:
  • A flammable and highly toxic gas.
  • A neutral oxide which burns in air to give carbon dioxide.
  • A good reducing agent.
  • An important industrial gas widely used as a fuel
  • A reducing agent in the chemical industry.

 Causes of poisoning…

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels are burned incompletely. This includes:

  • Tobacco smoking
  • Idling petrol
  • Diesel powered engines
  • Oil
  • Wood
  • Coal
  • Paper
  • Charcoal
  • Kerosene
  • Propane
  • Butane
  • Even burning your toast or chops!

All these fuels are found in the domestic/recreational and working environment. The risk of poisoning from properly installed, ventilated and regularly maintained appliances is extremely low.

However, we spend approximately 80% of our time in enclosed spaces like the home, vehicle, caravan, holiday accommodation, office, workshop, boat even a tent, it follows that having improperly installed, maintained, or the incorrect operation or use of appliances which can create unsafe levels of CO could dramatically increase our risk of exposure.


The following symptoms could indicate carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Convulsions
  • Respiratory Problems
  • Concentration Problems
  • Behaviour Problems
  • Personality Change
  • Clumsiness
  • Severe Muscle Pains
  • Fast Heart Rate
  • Trembling
  • Vision Problems
  • Loss of Hearing
  • Walking Problems
  • Unconsciousness


These measures can help to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • All fuel burning appliances and associated flues/chimneys are installed by the appropriate, registered trades people.
  • The above are maintained and serviced in accordance with the manufacturers instructions
  • No-one modifies or tampers with any appliance, flue or chimney
  • Your chimney is swept and inspected regularly
  • Ventilation openings are not blocked and are free from vegetations
  • Fit an audible CO alarm, certified to EN 50291
  • The CO alarm is tested when your appliances are.Carbon Monoxide Alarm


All appliances should be correctly installed and maintained. A CO alarm is not a substitute!

What to do if you have been poisoned…

If you believe you have been poisoned you should preferably seek medical attention at A&E. Inform medical staff you suspect you have been poisoned by CO and give all the information that you possibly can that makes you think this.

You should request an immediate blood test – you may have been poisoned but a delayed analysis could show a false negative.


Switch on or re-light any of your appliances until you have had them checked by the relevant trades people and you are assured they are safe.

Allow the removal of, or major works to any appliance found faulty without first taking advice.

© Wight Initiatives
VAT # 218 3459 04
Registered in the UK # 7725 203
Wight Initiatives Ltd,
23 King Street,
Cambridge, CB1 1AH
The Officers’ Mess Business Centre, Royston Road, Duxford, CB22 4QH
Registered in the UK # 7725 203
VAT # 218 3459 04