Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible, odourless and tasteless gas produced in the home by any fuel-burning appliance. Properly installed appliances are designed to combust fuel efficiently and produce little waste CO; any CO that is produced is either vented from the room to outside by a flue or chimney, made inert by a catalytic converter associated with the appliance, or is left to disperse naturally.
CO alarms are widely recommended as one of a number of important measures to protect against the health risks associated with CO leaks from fuel burning appliances. The expected lifetime of CO alarms has been increasing since their introduction in the mid-1990s and some current models have an expected lifetime of more than 6 years under normal operation. This report seeks to derive evidence on the reliability and use of CO alarms currently employed in UK domestic settings, to support consumer advice regarding their effectiveness and usage.
This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.
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