Keeping flu(e) at bay

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent killer. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it, but it can strike you and your family quickly and with tragic consequences.

The hidden dangers

An old or faulty gas appliance can produce the highly poisonous gas and exposure to even small amounts of carbon monoxide can lead to brain damage and death.

What is the issue?

If you live in a property, usually a flat or apartment, where the boiler flues are hidden behind ceilings or walls, then you may need to take action to ensure that you and your family are not in danger from escaping gas fumes and subsequent carbon monoxide poisoning. The flue is a vitally important part of the heating system as it is the mechanism that removes fumes from the boiler. A faulty flue can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which can lead to serious injury or even death.

Taking action

While carbon monoxide alarms are a useful detection tool, there is no substitute for an annual inspection by the Gas Safe registered engineer. Where the flue is concealed, an inspection hatch will need to be fitted. Since January 2013, where an inspection hatch is not fitted, Gas Safe registered engineers will formally advise you to turn the boiler off and not use it until an inspection hatch is fitted.

Who is at risk?

This advice only applies to room-sealed fan assisted boilers where checking the flue is impossible because it is totally or partially concealed. It is important that you or your landlord make arrangements so that a Gas Safe registered engineer can access the flue to check its safety status. If your room-sealed boiler is positioned on an outside wall, or if the Gas Safe registered engineer can see and examine all of the flue, then the threat of undetected escaping fumes will not be an issue.

An age-old problem

As with most mechanisms, the risk of escaped gas or malfunctioning flues increases with age, although it can also appear if a system has been fitted incorrectly or has been badly repaired. Annual checks are essential to identify potential risks. Even with inspection hatches and regular inspections, flues can still become faulty.

Symptoms of poisoning

It is important that you quickly recognise the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Breathlessness
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness

The symptoms are also similar to flu, food poisoning and other viral infections, so there is often the risk that this deadly poisoning can be mistaken for something else. Be particularly aware if: your symptoms only occur at home; your symptons disappear when you leave home; and others in your home, including your pets, exhibit the same symptons.

Take action now: If you suspect you have a concealed flue system servicing your room-sealed boiler, then get it checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer. He or she will advise you on an inspection hatch and can also assess the safety of the installation.

Posted In: landlords, plumbers, plumbing