Cases of Carbon Monoxide poisoning rise dramatically

Faulty appliances can lead to leaks of Carbon Monoxide gas

A new campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide poisoning has been launched on the day it has been revealed that there has been a rise in the number of fatalities caused by the condition.

Carbon Monoxide is frequently labeled the 'silent killer' because you can not see it, smell it or taste it. The odourless gas can cause people to lose consciousness quickly. It is created when fuels including gas, oil, wood and coal do not burn properly. Carbon Monoxide can be given off by a range of household appliances - including gas fires, boilers and central heating systems - if they have been incorrectly installed, poorly maintained or in an area with bad ventilation. Open fires, such as barbecues, can also produce the gas.

The people behind 'Project Shout' want to raise awareness of the dangers and encourage people to use Carbon Monoxide alarms. ITV Meridian reporter John Ryall spoke to Olivia Murray, from Kent, who nearly lost her life to Carbon Monoxide poisoning while staying with a friend.

The other interviewees in the report are the campaigner Gordon Samuel, from the Katie Haines Memorial Trust, whose daughter lost her life to Carbon Monoxide poisoning at her home in Wokingham; and Zoe Hadley, the Director of Project Shout.

Faulty or badly fitted boilers can cause Carbon Monoxide poisoning

The symptoms of Carbon Monoxide can be hard to detect. They can be similar to the symptoms of food poisoning or flu.

According to guidance from the NHS, symptoms can be as follows:

  • A tension-type headache is the most common symptom of mild carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • dizziness

  • nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting

  • tiredness and confusion

  • stomach pain

  • shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

  • The symptoms of exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can be similar to those of food poisoning and flu. But unlike flu, carbon monoxide poisoning doesn't cause a high temperature (fever).

Ways to prevent Caron Monoxide poisoning include:

  • Maintain your household appliances and get them serviced regularly

  • Maintain your chimneys and flues

  • Be wary of engine exhaust fumes - e.g. do not leave vehicles or lawnmowers on in enclosed spaces like garages; get your car exhaust checked every year

  • Fit a Carbon Monoxide alarm in your home and test it regularly to confirm that it works

If your Carbon Monoxide alarm sounds or you suspect there has been a leak, the authorities advise you to:

  • stop using all appliances, switch them off, and open doors and windows to ventilate the property

  • evacuate the property immediately – stay calm and avoid raising your heart rate

  • call the gas emergency number on 0800 111 999 to report the incident, or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Gas Safety Advice Line on 0800 300 363

  • don't go back into the property – wait for advice from the emergency services

  • seek immediate medical help – you may not realise you've been affected by the carbon monoxide, and going outside into fresh air won't treat any exposure by itself

There is more information about Carbon Monoxide - the causes, symptoms, and treatments - on the NHS website.