What do I do if I suspect I have carbon monoxide (CO) Poisoning?
Either get out the house or place where the poisoning is occurring (e.g. Workplace, garage, etc.) or if you can’t, open all windows and doors and turn off all appliances.
If you are concerned about someone who might be in the house still then ring the Fire Brigade immediately (dial 999) because fire brigade officers are the only emergency service to have breathing apparatus and can go in and rescue anyone who might still be inside. Fire fighters can also tell you if there is CO in the property and if you ask, may be able to have some idea where it is coming from.
Otherwise, you should ring the Gas Emergency Service on 0800111999 but see below under ‘What do I do if I have a gas Emergency’.
You should also visit your GP or casualty as soon as possible for a blood or breath test for CO. Arterial blood is NOT necessary. However, CO can quickly leave the blood in a live body so if your test is negative, do not assume your appliances are safe.
A visit to a doctor may be helpful to treat you and later to prove CO poisoning.
If exposure to CO is severe, hyperbaric oxygen (oxygen under pressure) is often recommended.
What do I do if I have a gas emergency?
Call The National Gas Emergency Service Helpline on 0800 111999 – However you must be aware that emergency operatives do not have the equipment to check appliances for CO. In our opinion, this is like sending someone to check for radioactivity without a Geiger counter. The Gas Emergency Service will merely test for natural gas and turn off the suspected appliance or the gas supply. They have no equipment to test your appliances for CO. They use visual signs to check for CO, which cannot be sensed using human senses. This would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. The CO could be coming from an unsuspected gas appliance or from a solid fuel appliance or from next door or from the flat below or above.
We have been informed that all personnel employed by the Gas Emergency Services have Personal Alarm Monitors (PAMs) or Gasco seekers for natural gas and CO. This is good because it protects the employees but it will not help the consumer who has been told to open all windows and turn off all appliances.
Why do I need to know if there is CO?
You need to try to make sure that the correct appliance (the one emitting CO) has been identified and ideally disconnected until it is put right.
Sometimes the dirty looking appliance is safe but the clean one is not.
Sometimes the CO has been coming from next door and not from your appliances.
You may also need proof of CO if you are thinking of bringing a legal case later against someone such as a landlord or negligent installer.
Can CO pass between houses?
Yes, through a joint chimney or attic for example.
How do I find someone to test for CO?
Have you been poisoned by carbon monoxide (CO)? Or do you suspect you may have been poisoned?
We can give you free, confidential help and advice. The earlier you contact us, the better for you. If you might want proof of carbon monoxide, (if only for your family or GP), it is vital to preserve the evidence and appliances should not be touched, except to turn the appliances off and perhaps disconnect .
You may want proof for a legal case. Please remember that if in doubt, it’s better to preserve the evidence and decide what to do later. If you have been poisoned, you will not be at your best to work out what you want to do, until you recover.
Please email email@example.com ideally with your telephone number and we will try to get back to you as soon as possible. We have lists of solicitors and can also advise you on someone to investigate the incident before the evidence has been changed.
It is extraordinarily difficult to obtain a test of appliances for CO. An investigation from an independent court expert (CORGI Services has such people) costs around £3,000. CORGI Tecnical Services Limited. Tel. 01256 548 040 Email: Enquiries@trustcorgi.org Website: www.trustcorgi.org However, there is now a qualification called CMDDA1 which enables the engineer to test for CO and provide you with parts per million. In our opinion, this would not be good enough for a court case but it might be accepted by a patient’s medical advisers and might also be a first step before deciding to employ an independent court expert. Such a person, qualified under CMDDA1, should not change the appliance other than to turn it on and test it and measure for parts per million of CO. If you needed such a person you could try contacting the Gas Safe Register. However, their category ‘fumes investigation’ does not seem to necessarily mean that a firm has a person qualified under CMDDA1. We therefore suggest you contact the firm and ask them if they have someone qualified under CMDDA1. If they do have someone qualified under CMDDA1 please make sure they will send that person and ask what the cost will be. When that person arrives to inspect and test the appliance please make sure they do not change the appliance other than to turn it on, test for CO. We recommend that you film what they do and have someone respected with you as a witness. Ask if CO has been found and if so ask for the number of parts per million of any CO found in writing.
Ideally try to obtain answers to the following in writing by email before the person attends:-
- That a named person who is qualified under CMDDA1 will attend. We suggest you check this with the Gas Safe Register.
- That the person who attends will not change the appliance before testing and
- That the qualified CMDDA1 person will provide parts per million of CO in writing if found.
- The cost of this service.
The gas safe register has recently assured us that they will help people by telephone to find someone qualified under CMDDA1.
However good the person qualified under CMDDA1 you should consider whether using such a person isn’t either a waste of money or a risk with regard to the other side alleging that changes could have been made (hence the recommendation to film what is done etc.).
Why does the result need to be given in writing ideally?
In our experience, doctors do not believe you if you say “my gas installer says I’ve been suffering from CO poisoning”. However, doctors do believe parts per million (ppm) of CO. Also, if you need to sue, it is makes the case much easier if you have a reading of ppm of CO in writing. Of course, a blood or breath test can also be used to prove CO poisoning. However, this does not prove where the CO was coming from and therefore may leave you at risk from an unsuspected appliance or from next door.
If I have been poisoned is there anything else I should do?
Yes. Please do not forget to visit your doctor and make sure any member of your family, who may have been affected also visits their GP. Even if the CO has not been established, it is important to inform your doctor of the symptoms. This can help with a correct diagnosis and it can also help you to prove your case. Being brave may be laudable but in court you may be made to look ridiculous and be asked, ‘you say you felt bad you thought you were dying, yet you did not seek medical advice?’
Assuming I have decided not to sue, how do I find someone to fix my appliance?
To find a local registered gas installer who will fix the appliance you could contact the Gas Safe Register Tel. 0800 408 5500
If you have hearing difficulties you can use the text phone service on 0800 408 0606.
Outside of office hours, when Gas Safe Register is closed, you can visit the website http://www.gassaferegister.co.uk to find an engineer or call 0800 408 5500 and use the automated telephone service.
PO Box 6804
If you have had work done by a registered gas installer within the past 12 months you can ask the Gas Safe Register to visit to inspect the work.
Ask them to test for CO and give you the parts per million of CO (if found) in writing.
I am thinking of bringing a legal case against my landlord and/or Gas Safe Registered installer. What should I do?
Make sure you have obtained as much evidence as possible by visiting your GP or casualty as soon as possible after exposure (e.g. within minutes and certainly within an hour or so) and ask for a breath and/or blood test for CO if necessary, in an assertive manner.
Make sure the appliances are not removed or tampered with in any way, other than to disconnect or turn off. If you are sure you have been exposed to CO (positive blood test of high levels or test of appliances shows high levels) you could contact us for a list of lawyers (victim or union recommended) and some gas experts for investigation and court expert witness work.
Litigation is usually hard and should not be entered into lightly. However, if you have been poisoned and this has been caused by someone’s negligence (and not by your own negligence e.g. by failing to have appliances serviced), then, in our opinion, litigation should be considered. The more evidence you have, the easier it will be to obtain the services of a good lawyer with perhaps a ‘no win no fee’ arrangement.