Carbon monoxide (CO) is the first domestic cause of accidental death.
CO is a very toxic, deadly, colourless, odourless gas formed during the incomplete combustion of carbonaceous materials: coal, oil, petrol, diesel, gas, wood. Inhaled carbon monoxide attaches quickly and easily to haemoglobin in blood instead of oxygen causing poisoning.
Symptoms include the following: headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, loss of consciousness, coma and then death.
Severity of symptoms depends on the duration of exposure and the concentration of inhaled carbon monoxide.
Exposure to repeated low doses over long periods (smoking) also causes cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases.
CO is always related to a source of combustion and mostly originates from:
• combustion appliances (gas-based, diesel, oil, wood or coal) not connected or poorly connected to an exhaust pipe or operating under poorly ventilated or poorly maintained conditions;
• the discharge of combustion gases from an appliance connected to a chimney. The main causes of discharge are due to clogged or blocked ducts or reverse flow caused by mechanical extraction in the same room (e.g.: kitchen exhaust hood);
• combustion devices not used as designated (e.g. auxiliary heating device used as a primary heating source);
• leakage (poor sealing) of combustion gas exhaust ducts in their passage of occupied spaces;
• exhaust gases of car engines running in enclosed (e.g. garage attached to the house) or inadequately ventilated spaces;
• smoking: each cigarette smoked emits 50 milligrams of CO.