Call for public warnings as carbon monoxide death toll grows

A leading charity is calling for the introduction of public health warnings about deadly carbon monoxide (CO), as new figures reveals over 650 people have died and thousands more have been injured by the toxic gas.

CO is an odourless gas which can be emitted from the burning of any carbon based fuel; including gas, coal, wood, oil and petrol. It is undetectable to human senses and can kill in seconds.

Statistics released by CO-Gas Safety show there have been a total of 653 deaths and 4653 near misses – 409 of which were found unconscious – caused by unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning (CO) in the UK since 1995.

Most fatalities (70%) have taken place in the home, with London, South Yorkshire and Derbyshire the areas recording the highest number of deaths.

“Being a deadly gas which cannot be sensed by smell, taste, touch or hearing, it is vital that people are aware of the dangers and know the steps to take to reduce their risk of being poisoned,” commented Stephanie Trotter OBE, president of CO-Gas Safety.

“That is why we are calling for public warnings to be introduced, to advise families of the dangers and how to protect themselves. These are needless deaths and steps must be taken to prevent them.”

In the past few weeks alone thirty two people working overnight in the Channel Tunnel have suffered suspected carbon monoxide poisoning on the job, with one diagnosed and in a serious condition, six people had to be rescued from a house in Cornwall after a suspected leak and a family of three had a lucky escape at their home near Bradford on Avon. An elderly couple in Sussex is thought to have been killed by carbon monoxide from a generator and two fishermen found aboard a trawler are also thought to have been poisoned by the deadly gas.

Stephanie added: “When nine people died on level crossings last year, National Rail responded with television warnings and is looking at other ways to tackle the issue. Since we started in 1995 we have been asking for prime time TV warnings about carbon monoxide, which accounts for around 50 deaths per year – with many more likely to be due to the gas and other poisons of combustion.

“We are also calling for improved training for installers and anyone working with fuels.”

Advice for families on reducing the risk:

  1. Have all appliances powered by carbon fuel that burns installed and regularly maintained according to manufacturer’s instructions by qualified people. With gas, this means Gas Safe Registered and make sure the person, who turns up to do the job is qualified for that appliance by consulting the Gas Safe Register  http://www.gassaferegister.co.uk
  2. Have chimneys and flues regularly swept and checked.
  3. Ensure adequate ventilation and that vents are clear.
  4. As an extra safeguard, buy a CO alarm that works to standard EN 50291.
  5. Never take a barbecue or stove into a tent, canopy or any interior space such as a boat, caravan, conservatory, home or motor home, even if you think it has burned out or even cold to the touch because it could still be emitting dangerous fumes.

The CO-Gas Safety charity works to raise awareness for the dangers of carbon monoxide and tries to prevent deaths and injury caused by CO poisoning and other gas dangers, along with offering free, confidential support to victims and their families.  For more information about CO-Gas Safety please visit www.co-gassafety.co.uk

For details of the BPEC CO Gas Safety Awareness course please visit https://bpec.org.uk/qualification/co-gas-safety-awareness/