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Mystery Carbon Monoxide (CO) threat resolved

Hackney Homes have recently investigated a spate of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms going off in tenants’ homes, which highlighted a CO threat from an unexpected source.

October 2010

In a bid to safeguard their tenants, Hackney Homes purchased and installed CO alarms for their properties. They discovered that the alarms were being triggered by certain cooking methods and the hardware that was being used, not faulty appliances which are the usual cause.

Blane Judd, Chief Executive of The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) explained, "Carbon Monoxide is produced when fossil fuels (such as gas oil or charcoal) are burned without sufficient ventilation and can result in severe sickness and death. The investigation carried out by Hackney Homes showed that the use of large cooking pans was causing some burners to be starved of air, causing a dangerous level of CO to be produced."

The CIPHE offers some advice. As well as installing a CO detector The CIPHE in conjunction with Carbon Monoxide Awareness Ltd. recommends using ventilated rings or supports over gas hobs to ensure adequate air circulation whilst cooking. They also advise against the use of tin foil lining in the 'drip tray' as this can interfere with air flow.

Blane added, "The installation of CO detectors is a positive and proactive step towards safeguarding public health. Recent research in Hong Kong has revealed that prolonged or frequent exposure to low or medium levels of CO can result in medical conditions arising. In addition, we know that CO in higher quantities causes profound sickness and death. Hackney Homes are to be commended for their use of CO detector alarms and we hope they will soon be in common use throughout the UK."

Norman Barrs, Managing Director of Henry Hardy Builders and a member of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers (CIPHE) has further advice. "There should be a CO detector in EVERY room where there is a gas appliance. They are easy to fit and use."