Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Silent Killer

A report published this week by the Gas Safety Trust reveals a dramatic rise in the number of deaths resulting from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in the UK since 2010.

The Gas Safety Trust, the prime source for data relating to gas safety in the UK, published the Carbon Monoxide Hotspot Report 2011, which contains the reported figures of gas-related CO incidents gained from media report gathering throughout the UK.

In the 12-month period between 1st July 2010 and 30th June 2011 there were 50-recorded incidents involving CO poisoning. Of the 105 people involved in these incidents, there were 25 fatalities and 80 injuries without fatal consequences, over three times as many fatalities as were reported in 2010.

I attended the launch of the report in the House of Commons this week to show support for the report’s recommendations to improve CO safety awareness and to reduce the number of fatalities.

The report shows the potential and real dangers from CO poisoning. Particularly at risk are people living in private rented accommodation, which is obviously a huge concern.

It’s essential that domestic gas users, get their gas appliances serviced regularly, get an audible CO alarm and for those with chimneys, ensure they get them swept regularly.

These things are not optional extras; they don’t have to cost a fortune, but the price of not doing them can be very high.

The Gas Safety Trust is calling for UK householders to be more aware of the dangers of CO, known as the ‘silent killer’ because you cannot smell, taste, hear or see its presence, particularly as the time for turning on central heating approaches.

October through to March is the high-risk period, during which 72% of CO related incidents occur. The number of incidents peaked in December 2010 when the UK experienced widespread snow and the coldest December for 100 years.

Despite the dramatic rise in recorded incidents, the Gas Safety Trust warns the real figures could actually be much higher.

Nigel Dumbrell, Head of Charitable Operations at the Gas Safety Trust is concerned that: ‘While deaths and serious injuries from CO exposure are relatively straightforward to record, the data does not reveal the extent of what might be termed ‘near misses’. The records do not capture information about the number of people who are unwittingly exposed to low levels of CO poisoning; levels that may cause long-term ill health, but go undetected.’

The Gas Safety Trust says further awareness activity is also needed to increase the proportion of households with a CO alarm, given the role of alarms in saving people from serious injury and death. Of all the CO incidents recorded, no incident involving an alarm resulted in a fatality or serious injury.