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What You Need to Know about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is produced when an appliance fails to burn its fuel correctly. Whilst carbon monoxide poisoning is most commonly associated with gas appliances, it can occur with other fuels as well. It is particularly dangerous because you can’t see it, taste it or smell it and, if you fail to detect it fast enough, it can kill you. A concentration of just 0.1% in the air can be lethal within an hour.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

Carbon Monoxide Detector

Carbon monoxide poisoning mimics flu symptoms, causing headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness. It can cause brain damage and even death. Statistics vary but, in the UK, it is believed that between 10-50 people die each year as a direct result of carbon monoxide poisoning. In France, the number is closer to 300. However, the French routinely include a test for carbon monoxide poisoning in their autopsies and the British don't.

It's reassuring to know that carbon monoxide poisoning is avoidable by taking a few simple precautions. Here are our top tips to help you make sure you don't have an incidence of carbon monoxide poisoning in your property.

  1. By far and away the most important thing to is have an annual gas safety check by a qualified installer. A link to locate a professional gas installer can be found here
  2. Be aware of the warning signs;
  3. Most gas appliances should burn with a crisp, blue frame. If the flame is flickering and orange, it is likely the appliance is not getting enough oxygen and therefore not burning correctly.
  4. Increased condensation inside windows.
  5. Dark stains around appliances.
  6. Pilot lights that won’t stay lit.
  7. 7. Install a carbon monoxide alarm. Whilst inexpensive carbon monoxide detectors are available, which change from yellow to black in the presence of the gas, these are not going to wake you if the problem occurs when you are asleep. Invest instead in an audible carbon monoxide alarm which will sound as soon as the gas is detected. Audible alarms can and do save lives and cost no more than a smoke detector.
  8. 8. Make sure that all vents are kept clear and free from debris. Leaves, in particular, can block vents and cause problems. Ensure they are cleared as part of your routine maintenance and prevent problems before they start. In the winter, remember to keep vents clear of ice and snow.

The French have strict regulations covering the installation and maintenance of gas appliances and it is well worth being aware of these.

  1. All new gas installations must have a Certificate of Conformity (Certificat de Conformité). However, this does not apply to single bottle installations with a flexible tube. These certificates must be sent to Qualigaz (the French controlling body) to be approved and stamped. The supplier may not turn on the gas supply until this has been done.
  2. When buying or selling a property, it must be accompanied by a Gas Diagnostic Certificate (Un état de l'installation intérieure de gaz naturel) which provides details about the gas appliances and pipework within the property. This lists any items which do not comply with the regulations.
  3. 3. Gas appliances fall into three categories depending of the type of flue they have. Regulations are strict, and can vary according to the location the appliance is to be installed. As the regulations are so complex, it is strongly recommended that you use a professional gas installer when fitting a new appliance. The French authorities can and will prosecute the person responsible if an incorrectly installed gas appliance causes death or injury.

By taking a few simple precautions you can avoid carbon monoxide and ensure your guests have a happy, healthy holiday.

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