COVID-19 and CO Gas - Staying safe at home during lockdown

Over the past few weeks, the COVID-19 lockdown has transformed the way we work, socialise, shop, exercise, and carry out pretty much every facet of our day to day lives. For the vast majority of us, this means staying at home, indoors and limiting our contact with the outside world.

Whilst this is of course necessary and, crucially, appears to be working, it should not be forgotten that there are additional dangers to health posed during isolation that we should all be wary of.

Survey data has shown significant negative effects on people’s self-reported mental health with loneliness, anxiety and depression all on the rise. Fear of attending hospitals has led to a significant reduction in diagnosis and treatment of other serious illnesses, with cancer referrals down 80% in some areas. The economic downturn will inevitably have lasting health and wellbeing consequences for those most severely affected. We will not know the full impact of the lockdown, both positive and negative, on public health until long after this is over.

One often overlooked danger within the home, which is amplified if people are inside for long periods, is that people using gas and solid-fuel burning appliances, boilers and stoves are at risk of being poisoned by Carbon Monoxide (CO).

CO is a silent killer. It is an odourless and tasteless gas that kills at least 50 people in England and Wales every year. It can be produced by any appliance that burns gas, oil, coal and wood, notably where they are either faulty, damaged, or have poor ventilation.

And the symptoms of chronic CO poisoning may be confused with some of the signs commonly associated with COVID-19, such as headache, sickness, tiredness and shortness of breath. There is a danger that someone being poisoned by CO might isolate further, rather than taking the necessary steps to open the windows and immediately get outside.

Fortunately, CO referrals tend to be highest in winter when the heating is on and the windows are shut. However as the hot weather and barbecue season descends upon us, there remains a significant threat posed if people are using these in poorly ventilated or covered spaces.

The issue has the backing of MPs and Peers from across political parties. Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (crossbench), Liz Twist MP (Labour), John McNally MP (SNP), and Baroness Maddock (Liberal Democrat), have all put their name to the appeal to the public to test (or purchase) their CO alarms and ensure this is correctly positioned within the house.

For more information, please visit, and if you do smell gas or suspect a CO leak in the home, call the national gas emergency number on 0800 111 999.