Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is easily preventable, yet each year it needlessly kills and injures people across the UK. Everyone should know what to look out for and how to protect themselves - most importantly by getting a carbon monoxide alarm. Currently, however, only 1 in 10 households has one - something that Bringing up Charlie readers can easily rectify today by entering my giveaway to win one of five free alarms. But read on...
Carbon monoxide is a killer. Often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because it has no colour, taste or smell, it can be easily inhaled without somebody realising.
This highly poisonous gas is impossible to detect without an alarm and the symptoms are very hard to recognise - largely because they are often similar to common illnesses such as flu or food poisoning.
And according to the Department of Health, more than 50 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, with thousands more treated for the effects in hospital.
Despite these dangers a recent study found that only one in ten homes have a carbon monoxide alarm, meaning over 23 million UK homes are at risk. The only way to be sure you and your family are protected is by getting an audible alarm.
Why should people be alarmed?
Carbon monoxide is a highly poisonous gas that has no colour, taste or smell, meaning it can easily be inhaled without somebody realising. When carbon monoxide is breathed in, it starves the body of oxygen. High levels can kill within minutes, but it can also cause a range of non-fatal health problems, ranging from headaches and drowsiness through to lasting brain and nervous system damage.
Despite the dangers, studies have shown that fewer than one in ten homes have a carbon monoxide alarm.* An audible carbon monoxide alarm is the only effective way for people to protect themselves and their families. Recent regulatory changes in Northern Ireland and Scotland will see more alarms installed in homes. However, not everyone will be covered, so we urge people, wherever they are based, to purchase and install an alarm today.
Young children and elderly people are particularly at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning because their bodies are less able to withstand the effects. Women should also be aware that if they don’t have an alarm and are pregnant they are putting their unborn child at risk.
How many people are affected?
According to the Department of Health, more than 50 people in England and Wales die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, and thousands more are treated in hospital. It is likely many more victims go unrecognised because the early symptoms can easily be mistaken for common illnesses such as flu or food poisoning.
What are the causes of carbon monoxide poisoning?
Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, charcoal, coal and wood do not burn fully. The most common cause of this is when a household fuel-burning appliance, such as a boiler or cooker, is installed incorrectly or is poorly maintained.
Carbon monoxide can also build up in homes when flues, chimneys or vents are blocked, and lit barbeques emit carbon monoxide, and continue to do so once they’re extinguished.
Four steps to protect yourself
The Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign recommends four simple steps to keep your household safe:
- Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm in your home – if you don’t have one, go and get one today. You can get them from most energy suppliers, DIY stores and supermarkets and many other high street shops. Make sure you buy an audible alarm – it should meet the European standard, EN50291. The alarm will sound if too much carbon monoxide is in the air.
- Have fuel-burning appliances serviced annually by a registered professional.
- Don’t block ventilation points and get chimneys swept at least once a year.
- Learn about the danger signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning at www.co-bealarmed.co.uk
There have been a number of cases recently of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by barbeques in enclosed spaces, such as in tents. When camping, be sure not to bring your barbeque inside with you, lit or extinguished, as the build-up of carbon monoxide emitted in a small space can be fatal.
Entering today's giveaway couldn't be easier, thanks to Rafflecopter. Simply choose one (or more) of the options in the box below between now and Friday and the first five entries selected will receive a free Carbon Monoxide detector. And for more information, visit the Carbon Monoxide - Be Alarmed website and follow the campaign on twitter (@COBeAlarmed).
*The study was carried out by Liverpool John Moores University in 2011. Firefighters conducted checks at 22,182 properties across Merseyside. 92 per cent of the properties did not have carbon monoxide alarms.