Gas Safe Register has found that a third (34%) of UK households do not have, or don’t know if they have a working carbon monoxide alarm.

Carbon monoxide poisoning could be putting more than a quarter (27%) UK households at risk this Christmas as Brits admit they haven’t taken steps to protect their home and their loved ones, including getting their gas appliances safety checked. UK adults also confessed that they don’t know the signs to look out for to spot if their gas appliances are unsafe or recognise the symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Coined ‘the silent killer’ as you can’t see, taste or smell it, carbon monoxide can be produced when gas appliances aren't working safely enough to burn fuel fully. More than a quarter (27%) of the 2,000 UK adults polled said they haven’t had their boiler serviced in the last year, even though an annual gas safety check is recommended by Gas Safe Register to ensure gas appliances are working safely and efficiently.

A fifth (22%) of households said a CO leak at home is the Christmas ‘present’ they’d least welcome. However, a third (34%) don’t have, or don’t know if they have, a working audible CO alarm to alert them to a leak, and more than half of those asked didn’t recognise breathlessness and collapsing as symptoms of CO poisoning. Other CO poisoning symptoms include nausea, headaches dizziness and a loss of consciousness.

Jonathan Samuel, Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register, said: “You can’t see, taste or smell carbon monoxide leaking from your gas appliances so it’s crucial to be proactive about making your home and your loved ones safe this festive season. We recommend an annual check for your gas appliances by a Gas Safe registered engineer and, as a second precautionary measure, getting a carbon monoxide alarm which will sound if it detects the gas."

Many of those polled correctly identified signs of unsafe gas appliances which include: increased condensation (85%), lazy yellow flames (76%), dark stains around gas appliances (76%) and the boiler’s pilot light blowing out (67%). However, people also selected incorrect options thinking they would be a sign of unsafe appliances: green flames (21%), flickering light bulbs (11%) and leaking taps (4%).

Gas Safe Register advises six simple steps for homeowners to keep their families safe this Christmas:

  • Only use a Gas Safe registered engineer.
  • Double check both sides of your engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card to know that they’re registered and qualified to work on your gas appliances.
  • Have all gas appliances serviced and safety checked every year.
  • Familiarise yourself with the six signs of CO poisoning; headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness.
  • Check appliances for warning signs that they are not working properly, e.g. black marks or stains on or around the appliance, lazy yellow flames instead of crisp blue ones and condensation around the room.
  • Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm for a second line of defence against carbon monoxide poisoning.