London: Beware -- carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning can kill in minutes without warning, as the gas happens to be colourless and odourless.
The gas binds to red blood cells, which displaces oxygen and chokes the body. CO poisoning may be linked with poorly installed gas fires and boilers, but no one is exempt from risk, says Baroness Ilora Finlay.
She is campaigning to make battery-operated CO alarms as widely fitted as smoke alarms in homes, a newspaper reported.
Cooker burning orange also indicates emission of CO. The poisoning symptoms are similar to flu. They include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and chest pains. The key indicator is whether the individual feels better in an open-air environment.
Recent high-profile cases include singer Charlotte Church and her two children who were nearly poisoned because of a leak from the boiler in her 1.3 million pound mansion in South Wales.
Although CO can kill in high doses, in smaller doses it can cause strokes, heart attacks, memory loss and personality changes.
The baroness, who has campaigned for smoking ban, first became aware of the toxic gas when she and her aunt were nearly poisoned four years ago at their home in Cardiff.
While the damage done to vital organs is irreversible, it is possible to halt any future damage by placing victims in a hyperbaric (use of pressurised oxygen) chamber which quickly extracts the gas from the blood.