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The silent killer: CO

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With it being Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month (in Northern Ireland), now is a timely reminder for all landlords and lettings agents to check that rental properties are ‘Gas Safe’ as the colder weather approaches.

Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless and tasteless poison. Breathing it in can make you unwell, and it can kill if you're exposed to high levels. The NHS reports that every year in England and Wales there are around 25 deaths from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Signs of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) explains that carbon monoxide can be released by any appliance that burns oil, solid fuel, wood or gas - including boilers - if they are not properly installed and maintained.

The symptoms can feel like other every day illnesses, such as:

  • nausea;
  • breathlessness;
  • headaches;
  • collapse;
  • dizziness;
  • loss of consciousness.

Even low-level exposure over a long period can cause lasting damage to your health, including permanent brain damage. More serious cases can cause death.

Legislation

Currently, only landlords in Scotland are required to install CO alarms in any let accommodation. The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations 2015 say private sector landlords in England and Wales are required to have at least one smoke alarm installed on every storey of their properties and carbon monoxide alarms in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance.

At present, the legislation doesn’t cover gas appliances, although these regulations could change. Landlords, therefore, may wish to install CO alarms for gas appliances as well.