As mentioned above, carbon monoxide is a by-product of burning carbon-based fuels without a sufficient air supply – namely gas, oil, wood and coal. In enclosed spaces the levels of carbon monoxide can build up very quickly and cause poisoning if breathed in over a long enough period of time.
Once inside your bloodstream, carbon monoxide mixes with haemoglobin – the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body – and there it forms carboxyhaemoglobin. When this happens, the blood is no longer able to carry oxygen, and this lack of oxygen causes the body’s cells and tissue to die.
As a safety measure it is important that your gas appliances are serviced regularly by a registered professional as household appliances – such as cookers, heaters and central heating boilers – are the most common sources of carbon monoxide. Blocked flues and chimneys can also prevent carbon monoxide from escaping so it is essential that those are cleared too.
If you have been exposed to carbon monoxide you will usually be treated with oxygen therapy, and while most people can recover from poisoning, if it is identified early enough, others will develop long-term complications, such as damage to the heart or brain.