The 'silent killer' Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas that has no colour, no smell and no taste. At high levels it can kill in as little as 3 minutes; at lower levels it causes illness.
Carbon monoxide is produced by fuel when burned - coal, oil, gas, timber & turf. Harmful levels can be produced by;
- Any badly installed, faulty, damaged or blocked heating appliance, chimney or flue such as open fireplaces, oil-fired or gas boilers, heaters etc.
- Blocked or insufficient ventilation in rooms where a fuel burning appliance is in use
- Improper use of fuel-burning appliances
On average, this poisonous gas kills 6 people in Ireland each year with many more being made to feel ill. Approximately half of these deaths result from the inhalation of smoke from fires.
Although CO poisoning is a common cause of death it is preventable.
Articles 11 and 13 of the existing Standards for Rented Housing do not go far enough in this regard. Article 11 states that a house must contain a fire blanket and either a mains-wired smoke alarm or at least two 10-year self-contained battery-operated smoke alarms. Article 13 states that the electricity and gas installation in the house should be maintained in good repair and safe working order with provision where necessary for the safe and effective removal of fumes to the external air.
A simple protective measure that should be included in future amendments to the regulations is to ensure an audible CO alarm is installed in a rental property together with smoke detectors and adequate ventilation.
With thousands of carbon monoxide alarms for sale in Ireland, some do not comply with minimum standards. The NSAI advises consumers and businesses to look for three quality marks when purchasing a carbon monoxide alarm; EN 50291, the CE-Mark symbol and end-of-life indicator. These symbols indicate the alarm has been tested and certified to the highest quality standards
The audible alarm provides an early warning to home occupiers of a dangerous build up of CO in the atmosphere and thus prevents unnecessary illness or even death.