Consumer and Product Safety

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil, wood and coal. Carbon-based fuels are safe to use. It is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess CO is produced, which is poisonous. When CO enters the body, it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it but CO can kill quickly without warning and even low-levels of the poison can cause lasting damage to your health.

Carbon Monoxide can be produced by any combustion appliance/equipment, including those that burn fossil fuels e.g. oil, wood and coal. Such appliances and equipment would include (Not an exhaustive list) -:

  • Gas cookers, fires and boilers
  • Wood burning stoves and open fires
  • Gas camping equipment (Lanterns, heaters, cookers, etc.)
  • Barbecues (Gas, charcoal, disposable, etc.)
  • Oil Burners

Appliances should be serviced and maintained by a competent person and chimneys should be regularly swept. To search for a competent Gas Safe registered engineer visit the Gas Safe register website and for a suitably competent solid fuel installer (HETAS member) visit the HETAS member search website. The Fire & Rescue service also have good advice on maintaining your chimney here, to ensure it gets cleaned regularly.

Gas Safe Register is the official gas registration body for the United Kingdom, Isle of Man and Guernsey, appointed by the relevant Health and Safety Authority for each area. By law all gas engineers must be on the Gas Safe Register. Further detail can be found here.

HETAS (The Heating Equipment Testing and Approvals Scheme) is the only government approved competent person’s scheme dedicated to solid fuel, wood and biomass. HETAS registered installers are trained and registered to work on your heating system, and are insured to work in your home. More information about HETAS can be found on their website and their consumer advice leaflets can be found here.

Fuel burning appliances (heaters, cookers, lamps etc.) should never be used in a tents (or awnings), as they are not designed for that purpose, unless they have a specific area built with sufficient ventilation. Additionally Barbecues should never be used in Tents or Caravans, or left smouldering inside a tent or caravan. The Caravanning and Camping Club have produced the following handy advice leaflet

Additionally CO-Awareness has produced the following poster (pdf) highlighting the harm caused by using badly maintained appliances or barbecues in tents.

Further sources of information on Carbon Monoxide can be found in the CO-Awareness advice leaflet (pdf) and the following websites:

© Advice leaflet reproduced with permission of the Camping & Caravanning Club.
© Poster reproduced with permission of CO-Awareness.