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Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council

You are here » Home » News » October 2010 » CARBON MONOXIDE IS A BURNING ISSUE


Publish Date: Thursday, 07 October 2010


Following the recent tragedy in Castlerock, suspected to be a consequence of Carbon Monoxide poisoning, Dungannon Council’s Environmental Health Department is making every effort to raise public awareness about Carbon Monoxide and the fact that any fuel-burning appliance which is not properly maintained can be a source of Carbon Monoxide (CO). 

This issue was discussed at the Council’s August monthly meeting and the Mayor Michelle O’Neill, MLA, has been working with the Environmental Health Department to consider ways of increasing the public’s understanding about the gas known as the ‘Silent Killer’.

The deadly gas is a product of the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fossil fuels.  It cannot be seen and has no taste or smell.  Unexplained symptoms include –

*      drowsiness

*      lethargy

*      dizziness

*      headaches

*      chest pains

*      giddiness

*      nausea

*      diarrhoea 

*      stomach pains

One or more of these symptoms can easily be mistaken for ‘flu’ and other common viruses, or even food poisoning.  If one or more individuals in your household suffers from these symptoms while at home but feels fine elsewhere, they may be suffering from CO poisoning.  The symptoms may also vary from one individual to the next.

Shane Campbell, Environmental Health Officer and a member of Dungannon’s Home Accident Prevention team, advises that “Sources of CO can be any appliance that burns gas, coal, wood or oil and may include cookers, stoves, heaters, gas tumble dryers, hot water heaters, gas burners, oil burners and fireplaces.  Hence all heating appliances that burn fuel should be serviced annually to ensure the fuel is burning correctly and fumes are properly vented out of the house”.

“Solid fuel users should get their chimneys swept before they light the fire again in autumn and then regularly every year.  Many homeowners may have installed wood burning stoves recently or may have undertaken DIY tasks without verifying the work with the necessary safety certification.  Without such certification, you cannot be confident that such an appliance and its flue have been safely installed.  It may also affect the validity of your home insurance so I would advise anyone who is concerned to first contact the installer about relevant safety certification for their heating appliance and then the Council if still in doubt”. 

“There may also be a risk of CO poisoning if you share a wall or chimney with a house that has a potential source of CO, even if your own house does not have one.  Also don’t forget any fuel-burning appliances there may be in your caravan or holiday type accommodation.  They must also be serviced regularly”.

The warning signs to look out for include:

·                                 Coal or wood burning fires that burn slowly or go out

·                                 Sooty stains on or just above appliances or on the walls around fireplaces.

·                                 A gas flame that normally burns blue, burning orange or yellow instead.

Those most at risk include – young children, the elderly, students and also people with anaemia, and those with heart and lung diseases.  Pregnant women risk foetal damage through exposure to Carbon Monoxide.   Source: www.co-awareness.org


Mark Flynn, Home Safety Officer with Dungannon Council encourages people to avail of the FREE Home Safety Checks he carries out in homes within the District where children aged under 5 or elderly persons are occupants.  “Carbon Monoxide is just one of the many real dangers that exist in the home today.  Young children and older people are particularly vulnerable.  An increasing number of retail outlets now stock carbon monoxide alarms.  Such alarms can be a good early warning device but it’s critical to note that the reliability of any alarm detecting carbon monoxide in time is dependent on its position.  Carbon monoxide is heavier than air so an alarm must be positioned on a wall at head height.  If you fit one on a bedroom wall, then it should be at the same height as your pillow.  Some CO alarms have been fitted on the ceiling in homes which may only detect the gas when it is too late.  Hence it is important to carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions before fitting an alarm”.  

Alan Burke, Dungannon Council’s Acting Chief Executive, said: “The most common causes of carbon monoxide poisoning are inadequate ventilation and lack of maintenance for appliances and venting flues.  About 10 years ago, a family within the Council area nearly suffered tragic consequences from this deadly gas.  In that instance, the chimney flue to an oil burner was blocked due to recent storm damage. Council would advise everyone with a fuel-burning appliance in their home to ensure that both the appliance and its flue are regularly checked and maintained by a competent person”.

The following organisations may be of help when seeking the services of a competent person for your home heating system:

·                     Northern Ireland Association of Chimney Sweeps, www.niacs.co.uk

·                     Gas Safe Register, www.gassaferegister.co.uk

·                     Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation, www.snipef.org

So the safety message is - Carbon Monoxide is a risk associated with any fuel-burning appliance and the fitting of a CO alarm should not be treated as an alternative to good maintenance and ventilation. Shane Campbell, EHO, added “People must not forget that a correctly positioned CO alarm will still require checking just like a smoke alarm and that only after carrying out all the safety checks and good maintenance, can one be sure they are protected”.

If you have any concerns about potential sources of carbon monoxide in your home or holiday type accommodation, or you wish to avail of the FREE Home Safety Check scheme, then you are advised to contact the Environmental Health Department at Dungannon Council, via telephone 028 87720366/7 or click here for further information. 


Photograph of Mayor O'Neill and Council Officers promoting gas safety 


Press Queries to be directed to

Alan Burke, Acting Chief Executive, Dungannon & South Tyrone BC

Shane Campbell, Environmental Health, Dungannon & South Tyrone BC or

Mark Flynn, Home Safety Officer, Dungannon & South Tyrone BC

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