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Stay Safe and Warm This Winter

Published: 24/09/2015

Flintshire County Council’s Public Protection Service is reminding residents and businesses to stay safe this winter by protecting themselves from the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from faulty or poorly maintained heating appliances. Many people will be turning on their heating systems for the first time in several months as we head into autumn and winter and it’s vital to be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas that can be produced if appliances, such as cookers, heaters, fires and boilers, have been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained. It’s often referred to as ‘the silent killer’ because it can’t be seen, does not smell and cannot be tasted. It can cause sickness, coma or death when it builds up in enclosed spaces. Warning signs of poisoning include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion. Unfortunately, people often don’t realise that they are being overcome by CO fumes until it’s too late. At lower levels it may produce symptoms which resemble flu or food poisoning. Carbon Monoxide causes around 50 known accidental deaths and around 200 serious injuries in England and Wales each year. Residents and businesses are reminded of the need to get all boilers and gas appliances (new or old) serviced and chimneys and flues checked by an expert every year. Those with a solid fuel burning appliance should have the chimney swept at least once a year, preferably before each winter, as birds’ nests, falling stonework and rubble, as well as spider webs and leaves can block chimneys and stop or reduce air flow causing carbon monoxide to enter the home instead of being safely vented outside. The Council is also urging residents and businesses to fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm. These are similar to smoke alarms and are available from most DIY retailers. These should not, however, replace regular servicing. As someone with over 30 years of experience in the gas industry, Councillor Kevin Jones, Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Protection, Leisure Services and Waste Strategy said: “The health and safety of all members of our community and visitors to our county is of the highest importance and concern. The importance of ensuring appliances are regularly serviced and the fitting of an audible carbon monoxide alarm, can not be over stated. If you think that you are being affected by the effects of Carbon Monoxide you are advised to turn off your appliances, open your windows and have an appropriately registered engineer check the appliance as soon as possible. You should also seek medical help and tell them that you think you might have been exposed to Carbon Monoxide” Further information regarding the danger of Carbon Monoxide can be found at or Notes to editor 1. For more information visit or 2. 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 (such as in the absence of sufficient air) that excess CO is produced. 3. Our blood has a component called haemoglobin, which normally absorbs oxygen in our lungs and carries it to the rest of the body. But haemoglobin absorbs Carbon Monoxide 240 times more easily than it does oxygen. So, when we inhale Carbon Monoxide from the air, it is this toxic gas, rather than oxygen that attaches itself to the haemoglobin, starving the body of oxygen. The smaller the person, the more quickly the body can be overcome by the effects of Carbon Monoxide. 4. There are sometimes physical indicators that may suggest a fault with domestic appliances or flues. The signs of trouble are black sooty marks on the clay bars above the gas flames of gas fires, sooty marks on the wall around stoves, boilers or fires, and smoke accumulating in rooms due to faulty flues. Yellow instead of blue flames from gas appliances is another sign that there may be a fault with the appliance.