Carbon Monoxide - A Silent Killer

Supporting Carbon Monoxide Week

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.  

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.

Household appliances, such as cooking and heating devices, that are incorrectly installed and badly maintained are the main causes of accidental exposure to carbon monoxide.

Blocked flues and chimneys are another potential cause of carbon monoxide poisoning as they can stop the gas escaping, allowing it to build up to dangerous levels in a room.

Burning fuel in an enclosed or unventilated space, where there are no air vents also increases the risk of CO poisoning.

Although CO poisoning is a common cause of death it is preventable. Provided household appliances are correctly fitted, used safely and well maintained, they should produce very little CO gas. Damaged appliances, or those that are not serviced regularly, often produce higher levels of CO gas than normal and can become dangerous.

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.  

To participate in the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown RAS Scheme, a carbon monoxide detection unit must be appropriately fitted in each property.