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November 7, 2008

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Poisoned property

The HSE has issued a safety alert about a potential risk of carbon-monoxide (CO) poisoning in residential properties with gas central-heating boilers sited on internal walls.

The risk arises from an arrangement of flues for gas boilers. Such boilers, most often found in multi-storey flats and apartments built since 2000, may have a flue that runs through the ceiling void. The HSE has found that some flues may not have been installed properly, or may have fallen into disrepair.

If the flue is not in good condition, this could affect the performance of the boiler, which, if not working efficiently, may produce high levels of CO. This may then enter the ceiling void through any breaks in the flue, contaminating the living space below.

When commissioning, servicing, or maintaining boilers, installers need to visually check the flue system. Where a flue runs through a ceiling or similar void, a means of access should be provided at strategic locations. A number of properties built recently do not have such means of access, so it is not possible to tell if the flue was correctly installed, or has since deteriorated.

The HSE is working with property developers, the gas industry, and construction trade bodies to confirm how many properties have been built with flues in ceiling voids but without means of access for inspection.

The safety alert can be found on the HSE’s website at www.hse.gov.uk/gas/domestic/alert021008.htm

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