Gas Safety Week 10th – 16th September 2012

Gas Safety Week, co-ordinated by the Gas Safe Register, is a week-long event during which companies and organisations working within the industry promote gas safety.

Carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, including natural gas, causes thousands of people every year to fall ill. It can be produced by faulty boilers, gas fires and cookers and, in the worst case, cause death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

As summer begins to fade and autumn takes its place, we start to switch on the central heating or light our fires. It is a good time of year to ensure that appliances are serviced and that chimneys and flues are swept. Carbon monoxide can be produced by an open coal or wood fire if the chimney is not drawing the smoke out of the room efficiently.

As symptoms for carbon monoxide poisoning are very similar to those of flu, it is possible for the presence of this gas to go undetected. If you have headaches and/or feelings of nausea and drowsiness, it may be due to the inhalation of carbon monoxide fumes. One of the simplest ways to protect yourself and your family is to install a carbon monoxide alarm in each room where there is a fossil fuel burning appliance. Carbon monoxide alarms sell for as little as £12.99 ex VAT . They will be triggered by the presence of carbon monoxide above 50ppm (parts per million) in the atmosphere.

On hearing your carbon monoxide alarm sound, you should open all windows and turn off the appliances that use fossil fuel. If the appliance is a gas burning device, contact the gas board and inform them of the situation. They will be able to confirm if there is carbon monoxide present and advise you on what to do next. If you were using an open fire at the point of alarm, ensure that you have swept the chimney  before relighting it; if the alarm goes off again, you may need to contact your local builder to ensure that there are no problems with the integrity of your chimney.

Visit for useful information on this gas, including real-life accounts of people’s experiences of it. To help prevent tragic deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning, please spread the message this week to family and friends; and, if you have elderly neighbours, check that they are looking after their appliances and suggest that they install carbon monoxide alarms, too.

Tragic death of father and two children due to carbon monoxide

The tragic death of Trevor Wallwork and his two children, Kim aged 12 and Harry aged 9 is thought to have been due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

The three were found dead in the living room of their home in Co Silgo on December 18. It is thought that a crisp packet that had been put on the open fire was sucked up and blocked the chimney causing the deadly gas to seep into the room.

Their sad deaths highlight how dangerous carbon monoxide is. It is unthinkable that an innocent act of putting a crisp packet on an open fire could have such devastating consequences. If you are unsure what the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are or would like to find out more here is some information for you.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon Monoxide (chemical symbol: CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless and toxic gas created by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels (gas, oil, coal and wood), as used in our everyday appliances such as heaters, engines and boilers.


The symptoms of mild Carbon Monoxide poisoning are similar to those of viral cold infections: headache, nausea, dizziness, sore throat and dry cough.

More severe poisoning can result in a fast and irregular heart rate, over-breathing (hyperventilation), confusion, drowsiness and difficulty breathing. Ultimately it leads to coma and death.

How to protect yourself and your family

  • Make sure rooms and heaters are well ventilated.
  • Have your chimneys and flues checked regularly.
  • Make sure boilers and heaters are maintained and serviced regularly.
  • A Carbon Monoxide Detector will measure the concentration of Carbon Monoxide in a room and sound an alarm if the CO concentration is higher than permitted (as indicated below)

Here is the full report



10 carbon monoxide alarms to give away in gas safety week

This week sees the launch of the first Gas Safety Week. The awareness week will run from September 12th to September 16th and to show our support we are giving 10 FREE Kidde 900-0233 carbon monoxide alarms away.

Gas Safe Register are highlighting the importance of using registered qualified engineers for all gas installations and services. Unqualified engineers may not be aware of the correct procedures which could have devastating consequences. Incorrectly installed or serviced gas appliances could result in carbon monoxide being produced leading to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Statistics show that around 4,000 people a year suffer from the effect of carbon monoxide poisoning, some 200 of these are hospitalised and approximately 50 people a year die.  This year has seen several deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning of campers taking BBQs into their tents to keep warm. The embers of the BBQ emitted carbon monoxide and the victims were killed as a result of inhaling carbon monoxide. These devastating incidents reveal that there is not enough awareness about carbon monoxide.

If you would like the chance to win one of our free carbon monoxide alarms you can either ‘like us’ on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or register for our CO alarm reminder service, we will remind you to check your carbon monoxide alarms by either e-mail or text.

The Competition is now Closed

CO alarm saves life of singer Charlotte Church

After moving into her new home, Welsh singer Charlotte Church began to suffer from frequent headaches. She could not find an explanation for this and it was her grandfather who suggested that the possible cause could be a carbon monoxide leak.

Charlotte Church’s grandfather then installed a carbon monoxide alarm in the home of the singer and her two children, aged 2 and 3 years.

The Carbon Monoxide detector alerted them to the fact that the boiler was faulty and leaking carbon monoxide into the family’s home. This situation could have had fatal consequences, as there is no other way to be alerted to a carbon monoxide leak other than by a CO alarm, as the gas has no odour or colour.

Charlotte Church’s symptoms of headaches and generally feeling unwell are typical for early carbon monoxide poisoning. We offer more information on carbon monoxide.
To read the full story go to:

CO detectors and ‘false alarms’

By Dr Bernard Thomas, Kidde Safety Europe

Carbon Monoxide (Chemical Symbol is ‘CO’) is a deadly gas, combining three characteristics which make it hard to detect: it is odorless, colourless and has no taste.

In domestic situations it can be generated by any fuel burning appliance. Gas boilers, gas fires, wood burning stoves are just three examples. The generation of carbon monoxide increases if vents are poorly sited, if inadequate ventilation exists, if vents or flues are blocked or if the appliance is burning inefficiently. It is therefore vital that all your fuel burning appliances are regularly serviced. This should be done by a qualified person with “ Gas Safe” accreditation. You should ensure that the Engineer can measure CO levels coming from your appliance. Not all engineers have such instruments.

We recommend that households install CO detectors. Only choose CO alarms that have been tested to the European standard EN50291. The certification to this standard has to be displayed on the packaging by law. Do not be fooled by alarms that state “ Designed to comply with…” as these are usually not independently tested. Alarms properly accredited to the standard have amongst many safety critical features an audible alarm and LED indicators.

The EN50291 standard requires that the printed alarm manual contains information about the dangers of CO, what to do when the alarm sounds and who to contact. Make sure you read the manual when you install the CO alarm and keep it in case the alarm sounds.

What happens if your alarm sounds and what should you do?

If the instrument has gone into alarm you must assume that you have an CO event – remember you are dealing with a gas that you cannot see, smell or taste. An alarm is a very loud sound. If the alarm is just beeping softly at 30 second intervals it is a different warning, such as a low battery warning. (See your manual for details).

All Kidde CO alarms are 100% tested in CO gas at the factory and independently tested by BSI so we stand by the reliability and quality of our products.

People’s reaction to an alarm vary.

Some ignore it, take out the battery and ring our help desk the next day.

The conversation often goes as follows…

Customer: “ Hello, my CO alarm went off last night and I had nothing on so it is faulty

Helpdesk: “Have you got the alarm with you”

Customer: “ Yes”

Helpdesk: “ Please put the batteries in and press the test button”

Usually the alarm will test OK which our helpdesk are able to hear on the telephone.

Of course if the alarm beeps we may conclude low battery or probably the end-of-life indicator. We will advise accordingly.

If the CO alarm is doing something out of the ordinary we will replace the alarm, if in warranty, within 5 working days.

Let us go back to the CO alarm that actually went into alarm but the next morning is testing OK.

The helpdesk will conclude that there has been a CO event and will talk through where the CO detector it is sited, what appliances were in use and whether the appliances have been serviced by a qualified Engineer.

What can cause a false alarm?

Of course the alarm may have developed  a fault – and this should show with the fault indicator – a combination of flashing LEDs or an amber LED flashing. In this case we will replace the alarm if in warranty.

People ask if anything else can set the CO alarm off. It is unlikely that in domestic situations this will happen. Hydrogen gas can set it off, as can some chemicals not likely to be used in the home.

In a case we were recently involved with, the CO alarm sounded and the caller claimed it was false alarming. When we talked through the circumstances we discovered he was stripping down his motorcycle engine in the room where the alarm was situated using many concentrated solvents , including petrol, to clean the parts.

The manual gives more information on solvents that can affect the alarm. Most of these would not be widely known!

Another real case – CO alarms sounding apparently falsely. We found that they had been installed in a warehouse where gas powered fork lift trucks were operating and the exhaust fumes were setting them off. (A lesson not to fit CO alarms in your garage ).

Another case in a remote Scottish Croft:

The owner said his alarm was sounding regularly. The alarms appeared on examination to be fine. On further investigation  it was found that he had a back-up power system of lead/accumulator batteries. As the batteries charge they produce hydrogen gas which can trigger CO alarms. This issue also happens regularly on boats where batteries are charged.

So, why might your CO alarm have gone off?

At a level of 50ppm (parts per million) of CO the alarm will go off after 90 minutes. You may have been cooking, generating low levels  of CO gas (perhaps your stove flame was slightly blocked and burning inefficiently), turned the stove off, closed the kitchen door and therefore sealed the gas in, leaving the alarm to sound an hour later.

In another case CO gas was entering a neighbouring house when the flue of an application was faulty, unfortunately resulting in a fatality.

When their CO alarms go off responsible customers will switch off the appliances, ventilate the house and ring the gas board. They will rapidly receive a visit from an Engineer. The following text is an extract from a typical letter we received following a callout:

“….the alarm went off so I called XXXXX. They arrived and checked my boiler and said it was working correctly. The Engineer said that there was a fault with your alarm….”

We would make a number of comments about this:

– If CO had been present then the ventilation will have cleared it.

– Did the engineer test for CO in the flue gas of the boiler? Not all Engineers carry such instruments. We know of one Engineer who used our alarm to check the boiler. Other engineers have wrongly used LPG gas detectors to detect carbon monoxide, confusing the issue with leaks of piped gas.

We made a study of such events. We requested the alarms to be returned to us and tested them in our laboratory. In all cases we found that the alarms were working perfectly.


–          Make sure that you understand from the manual what any bleeps from your CO alarm mean. They could indicate a low battery, the end of life in some alarms or a fault indication. In the latter case contact the supplier for a replacement.

–          Understand thatcarbon monoxide can come from a number of appliances including your neighbour’s and that it can build up and set off an alarm after you have gone to bed.

–          Make sure your appliances are serviced by an accredited engineer and that the engineer has the equipment to measure for CO

–          In the case of an alarm follow the instructions in your manual.

–          Fit only CO alarms certified to the EN standard by an independent test body ( eg BSI, LPCB )

Carbon monoxide alarm alerts family

A Lincolnshire family escaped the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning thanks to the carbon monoxide alarm they had installed after moving into a listed Georgian  house.

The couple knew that the oil boiler that was in the property was old but after having it serviced they felt reassured that there was no possibility of the boiler malfunctioning.  Luckily some friends who had moved the previous year to find an aged boiler in place encouraged them to buy a carbon monoxide alarm. As a result they purchased a carbon monoxide alarm from Safelincs shortly after moving into their new home.

The alarm did not go off when first installed in the boiler room but as the weather got warmer the family turned the boiler off. There was then a drop in temperature and the boiler was turned on again to fire up the central heating. It was then that the alarm began to sound.

Above the boiler room was the bedroom of their youngest daughter and as carbon monoxide can seep through bricks and flooring, a potentially life threatening situation could have ensued had the carbon monoxide leak not been detected immediately.

Mrs G wrote, Thanks again for ‘saving our lives!’

‘Still working, but at the end of its serviceable life’, was the description the surveyor gave of the ancient oil-fired boiler in our newly bought Georgian house. Friends recommended that we install a Carbon Monoxide alarm and we were relieved when the alarm did not sound when the boiler was first switched on. We decided to keep the boiler while it was still working for our first Winter in the house. However, three months later we were woken by the loud sounding of the alarm and discovered that the boiler had started leaking Carbon Monoxide. We feel eternally grateful to our friends for making us aware of the silent killer in our midst and are now looking to replace the boiler as soon as possible.

Don’t leave detecting carbon monoxide to luck. Install a carbon monoxide alarm today.

Serious Carbon Monoxide Poisoning from Gas-Powered Forklift

Hi-Tech Products Ltd in Swadlingcote, Derbyshire experienced serious problems with carbon monoxide poisoning on the 10th Feb 2011.

One Thursday lunchtime, four members of the factory started to feel unwell, with the office workers starting to feel ill as well minutes later. The company suspected some form of CO poisoning and rang the gas supplier who sent an engineer within one hour.

The engineer checked the back of the gas-powered forklift and a gas heater but could not find any trace of carbon monoxide. Despite not finding any carbon monoxide he still switched the mains gas supply to the heater off. The company continued to use the forklift truck.

The symptoms of CO poisoning got so bad that one lady had to be taken to A+E and a gentleman had to go to the health clinic. Everybody else felt nauseous. The following day staff felt a little better. To play safe the company bought a Kidde carbon monoxide detector which started alarming straight after its installation. To double check the result, the alarm was taken outside into fresh air where the detector stopped alarming. The alarm started again when the CO detector was taken back into the building.

The gas supplier was called back in and could still not find any carbon monoxide present. The company then organised another carbon monoxide detector from a different brand and again, the alarm was immediately triggered. As a result of this Hi-tech contacted the environmental department of the local council who arranged for the fire brigade to come out and measure the CO levels.

The fire brigade successfully detected the CO gas and narrowed the source down to the forklift where 1000ppm were measured. This level is highly dangerous in closed buidlings. Hi-tech immediately had the forklift serviced which reduced the output of carbon monoxide greatly but still did not get rid of all CO gas emissions.  If the roller doors to the factory are closed, the Kidde alarm will still go into alarm. The company temporarily resolved the problem by leaving the roller doors open during working hours and by installing another two CO alarms. Hi-tech are now considering changing to an electrical forklift truck. Since these measures were introduced no further health issues were reported.

EastEnders carbon monoxide poisoning

This week an EastEnders story line will be covering carbon monoxide poisoning. Single mum, Heather Trotter, will be discovered unconscious in her flat.

Heather knows that her boiler is faulty but can not afford to have it repaired. The boiler leaks carbon monoxide into the flat and leaves Heather fighting for her life. Did she know about the dangers of carbon monoxide?

This episode will hopefully raise the awareness about carbon monoxide poisoning and how it occurs. Carbon monoxide is the result of incomplete combustion of all fossil fuels. It has no odour or colour and as a result can go undetected. Even some GPs miss-diagnose the onset of carbon monoxide poisoning as flu as the symptoms are very similar.

Don’t risk your life like Heather Trotter, install a carbon monoxide alarm and investigate your fossil fuel appliances if you begin to feel unwell at home, with flu like symptons that get better when you are outside the house.

UL testing of CO alarms not up to EN Standards

Any CO detector installed is a potentially life saving piece of equipment, and for this reason must be carefully chosen. CO detectors with certification in accordance to the European Norm EN50291 are tested to a higher standard of sensitivity and reaction time, than those tested to the US American UL2034 standard. CO detectors that meet the strict European EN standards have met the highest safety and quality requirements. UL marks are achieved through a similar, yet less rigorous testing in the USA and it has been known for UL tested carbon monoxide detectors to fail to meet the EN standards. Here a comparison of some of the requirements:

Test EN50291 Standard UL2034 Standard
Humidity Tested 20% to 80% relative humidity Tested 30% to 70% relative humidity
Temperature Threshold 13 to 27 degree Celsius 20 to 26 degree Celsius
Alarm Threshold Alarm does not sound until 120 mins exposure @ 30ppm Alarm does not sound until 30 day exposure @ 30ppm
Alarm Threshold Alarm must not be given before 60 mins but must before 90 mins @ 50ppm Alarm must not be given before 60 mins but must before 240 mins @ 70ppm
Alarm Threshold An alarm must be given within 3 mins @ 300ppm An alarm must be given within 15 mins @ 400ppm
Continuous Testing 2 samples tested by certification body annually No further testing
EMC Tests Tested from 30 to 1000Mhz Tested at a few discrete frequencies

When purchasing a CO detector (or any alarm/detector) it is advisable to always check for the type of certification that has been awarded. Please browse our full range of Kitemarked marked CO detectors.

CO Detector Study Published

In September 2009 the Department for Communities and Local Government published a report that looked at deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning and the provision of CO detectors under the buildings regulations.

The report looked at the number of deaths per year caused as a result of carbon monoxide and how cost effective it would be to install carbon monoxide detectors to prevent these deaths.

There are various types of carbon monoxide detectors ranging from battery operated units, plug-ins and hard-wired CO alarms. The life span of each type of unit was also taken into consideration throughout the study.

The conclusive recommendations of the study are that it is advisable to install a carbon monoxide detector and that the installation of such a unit is cost effective. This study also makes recommendations that boats and caravans that have combustion appliances should also install a carbon monoxide detector.

It is expected that the Buidling Regulations will shortly be updated to reflect these recommendations. We will keep you informed.

Further information on this CO alarm study

Further general information on carbon monoxide alarms