Is there a silent killer in your home?

publication date: Apr 22, 2015
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

Guest article from Gas Safe

In the right hands, gas is safe, however if things go wrong gas appliances can cause gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous substance produced by the incomplete burning of carbon-based products, such as natural gas and liquid petroleum gas (LPG). This happens when a gas appliance has been incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained. It can also occur if flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.

Carbon monoxide is known as the Silent Killer, because you can’t see it, taste it or smell it and it can kill quickly with no warning. Every year the Silent Killer attacks over 4,000 people in the UK.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning - headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness - are similar to the flu, food poisoning or a hangover, however there are other signs to look for. If your symptoms only occur when you are at home and disappear when you get fresh air, or if other people in your home experience the same symptoms at the same time, these could be an indication of carbon monoxide poisoning.

There may also be signs around your home, for example:

  • if you have lazy yellow or orange flames, you need to get your appliance checked. Flames should be crisp and blue (note that some decorative-effect gas fires may burn with a yellow flame)

  • dark staining on or around appliances 

  • pilot lights that frequently blow out 

  • increased condensation inside windows 

If you suspect that you have carbon monoxide poisoning, get fresh air immediately - open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and leave the house. See your doctor straight away or go to hospital - let them know that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, as they can do a blood or breath test to check. If you think there is immediate danger, call the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999.

It is important to get all your gas appliances safety checked once a year by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer. Annual maintenance not only helps keep your heating and hot water working properly, it helps keep you safe. As a second line of defence, fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm in your home. But remember this is no substitute for regular servicing of all your gas appliances.

Landlord’s have legal duties to maintain the gas appliances they provide and must ensure a gas safety check is carried out every 12 months, by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer. A copy of the Landlord Gas Safety Record must also be provided to the tenants.

Gas Safe Register is the official list of gas engineers who are qualified to work safely and legally on gas appliances. By law, all gas engineers must be on the Gas Safe Register, it replaced CORGI. For further information please visit

Do take a look at some of our safety checklists:

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