35 million people still 'at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning'

A plumber works on a gas boiler. Credit: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

At least 35 million people in Britain are still at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning, a new survey has found.

A survey for the Carbon Monoxide - Be Alarmed! campaign - found that people mistakenly think that their smoke alarm will detect carbon monoxide.

The Department of Health estimates that 50 people are killed by carbon monoxide poisoning, and at least 4,000 are treated in hospital, in the UK each year.

However, the figure is likely to be much higher than this, as carbon monoxide poisoning is very difficult to diagnose as symptoms are often similar to common illnesses like flu and food poisoning.

In the survey, 81 per cent of people knew that carbon monoxide can kill. Despite this, only 39 per cent said that they have a carbon monoxide alarm.

Of those without a carbon monoxide alarm, 42 per cent said this was because they have a smoke alarm, indicating a high level of confusion between the two types of alarms.

As of today carbon monoxide alarms will become compulsory in new homes in Northern Ireland.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels, including gas, oil, wood and coal.

Carbon-based fuels are safe to use. It is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess CO is produced, which is poisonous.

When CO enters the body, it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs.

You can't see it, taste it or smell it but CO can kill quickly without warning.

Visit the Health and Safety Executive website for more information.

Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

  • Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm.

  • They need to be put in a central location in the house and can be fixed to the wall or can be placed on a table, bookshelf or shelf.

  • Have fuel-burning appliances serviced annually by an appropriately qualified and registered engineer.

  • Don't block ventilation and have chimneys swept at least once a year.

  • Know the main symptoms: headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapsing and loss of consciousness.

  • Keys signs are if symptoms clear up when you are away from home and come back when you return, or if other people in your household experience similar symptoms.

  • Watch out for soot or yellow/brown staining on or around your appliance.

For more tips visit: www.co-bealarmed.co.uk.