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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous, colourless, tasteless, odourless gas produced when fuels such as gas, coal or oil do not burn fully. It is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ as it is so difficult to detect.

Exposure can occur at home or in the workplace. Incorrectly installed, poorly maintained or poorly ventilated household appliances, such as cookers, heaters and central heating boilers, are the most common sources of carbon monoxide. Blocked flues and chimneys can also prevent carbon monoxide escaping, allowing it to reach dangerous levels.

After breathing in carbon monoxide, it enters your bloodstream and mixes with haemoglobin (the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body). When this happens, the blood is no longer able to carry oxygen, and this lack of oxygen causes the body’s cells and tissue to die.

Common Symptoms
Symptoms from carbon monoxide poisoning can vary from headaches and nausea to death in more serious cases. A headache is the most common symptom, others can include:

  • dizziness 
  • nausea and vomiting 
  • fatigue and confusion 
  • stomach pain 
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing 
  • blurred vision 
Carbon monoxide has a half-life of approximately 4 hours at standard atmospheric pressure. Generally, therefore, most symptoms will resolve within 4 hours from the cessation of exposure and there are usually no long term consequences. The half-life can be reduced further with the use of oxygen therapy treatment, administered at hospital to patients presenting with symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Domestic Exposure
If you live in a rented property, your landlord is under a duty to ensure:
  • that all pipe work, appliances, and flues provided are safely installed and maintained 
  • to conduct an annual safety check on each appliance and/or flue provided
  • to keep a record of each safety check for at least two years and issue a copy to you, either before you move in or as each check is completed
  • to use only CORGI registered installers
There is no obligation on a landlord to provide carbon monoxide detectors.

Of course, exposure can occur in all domestic properties, not just those that are rented. Poorly maintained or installed appliances are the most common source.

What can I do?
As the tenant, you have a duty not to use an appliance you believe to be dangerous and to notify your landlord of any suspected problems.

If you do suffer carbon monoxide poisoning and want to make a claim for compensation, your landlord must usually have had actual notice of the defect i.e. you or a CORGI-registered inspector must have reported it to them. 

Cabon Monoxide Poisoning Leak
Be vigilant for the following possible signs of a carbon monoxide leak:

  • black sooty marks on the front of gas fires, around boilers or stoves 
  • smoke build up in rooms due to a faulty flue 
  • yellow flames coming from a gas appliance instead of blue 
  • you or people in your household falling ill with the symptoms detailed above, especially if symptoms disappear when you go away and return when you come back, such as if you go on holiday 
  • pets also becoming ill 

If you suspect a leak, you should:

  • stop using cooking and heating appliances that use fuel other than electricity 
  • open all windows in your property 
  • move away from the suspected source of carbon monoxide 
  • if you live in a rented property, report the problem to your landlord 
  • contact the HSE Gas Safety Advice Line on 0800 300 363
  • visit your GP as soon as possible and ensure it is documented in your notes
  • arrange for a suitably qualified engineer to inspect your appliances 

How can claiming for compensation help me? 
The assessment of compensation, or damages, will depend on the duration and extent of the symptoms suffered. You are entitled to claim for any financial losses suffered as a result of your illness, including loss of earnings and the cost of medication.  

NewLaw has a team of personal injury specialists, who are dedicated to getting the best results for clients that have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Have you suffered from carbon monoxide in your place of work? If yes, click for more information.

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