Ireland’s fifth annual Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week takes place in Ireland from 26 September to 2 October in this year. Each year, the campaign aims to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide and highlight the measures that can be taken to prevent it. Carbon monoxide can, and does, kill. On average, six people in Ireland die every year as a result of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning and many more are made ill. There are a number of things you can put in place to prevent CO poisoning.
What is Carbon Monoxide (CO)?
Carbon Monoxide (also known as CO) is a colourless, odourless poisonous gas and is a common yet preventable cause of death from poisoning worldwide. Approximately half of the deaths from unintentional CO poisonings result from the inhalation of smoke from fires. Other significant causes are vehicle exhausts and deaths in industrial / commercial settings. On average between 1 and 2 people die each year in Ireland from unintentional CO poisoning in the home in incidents related to domestic heating or other fossil fuel installations in the home (i.e. excluding the inhalation of smoke from fires).
The incomplete combustion of organic fossil fuels such as oil, gas or coal is a common environmental source of CO and is responsible for many cases of non-fatal unintentional CO poisoning.
In normal conditions the combustion process (the addition of oxygen) will result in carbon in the fossil fuel, combining with oxygen, in the air, to produce Carbon Dioxide (CO2), the same substance we exhale when we breathe.
However, if there is a lack of air for the combustion process or the heating appliance is faulty, Carbon Monoxide can be produced.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.
Causes of CO Poisoning
You can be in danger of Carbon Monoxide poisoning at home if dangerous amounts of Carbon Monoxide accumulate in the home. This can happen as a result of any or a combination of the following:
Faulty or damaged heating appliances
Heating appliance not maintained or serviced
Rooms not properly ventilated
Blocked chimneys or flues
Indoor use of a barbecue grill or outdoor heater
Poor installation of heating appliances
Improper operation of heating appliances
Property alterations or home improvements, which reduce ventilation
Running engines such as vehicles or lawnmowers in garages
Using cooking appliances for heating purposes
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 (e.g. adding an extension, converting a garage, removing internal walls, changing a living room into a bedroom, double glazing / weather sealed doors) 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 IS813:2002 Domestic Gas Installations
Get professional advice on ventilation and flueing before embarking on alterations to your house. Contact your fuel supplier for details of qualified personnel
Use Carbon Monoxide alarms but remember these are no substitute for regular inspection and maintenance of appliances, vents, flues and chimneys. Check that the Carbon Monoxide alarm complies with the EN 50291 standard.
Many people when carrying out home improvements, such as adding extensions, double-glazing, conservatories etc., or when removing internal walls or partitions are unaware that they may be affecting the safety or efficiency of their heating installation. If you require advice before embarking on major alterations, or if you are going to change the use of a living room into a bedroom, then you may require the advice of a professional. Contact your fuel supplier for a list of qualified personnel.
What can you do?
Help spread the word far and wide for Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week. Ensure your family and friends are aware of the dangers of CO and how to prevent it – encourage them to visit here and get informed.