Carbon monoxide poisoning causes approximately 40 deaths and 200 serious injuries a year. About 4000 people require hospital treatment – more than 10 a day, on average.
Carbon monoxide alarms save lives. While the financial cost of an alarm is small - basic models start at £15 - there are huge human costs to not installing one.
In a survey for the Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign, only 39% of respondents said that they have a carbon monoxide alarm. It is likely that the real proportion is much lower. Safety checks carried out by the fire service in over 22,000 homes across Merseyside found that less than one in ten homes had a carbon monoxide alarm.
Of those without a carbon monoxide alarm, 42% said this was because they have a smoke alarm, suggesting that there is a high level of confusion between carbon monoxide and smoke alarms.
Surveys suggest that 88% of homes now have smoke alarms, although the private-rented sector, at 82%, still lags behind owner-occupied, council and housing association homes. But this is still a significant improvement from 62% just a decade ago.
Building regulations require the provision of smoke alarms in all new dwellings but at present, landlords are not legally required to install or maintain smoke alarms in their properties. The regulations also require that a carbon monoxide alarm must be installed in any property when a solid fuel heating system, for example, a wood burning stove, is first installed. There is no requirement for any other property to have a carbon monoxide alarm.
The Government has got the powers to insist that rented homes do have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms but it has failed to act. It said that it will only introduce the necessary statutory instruments to make smoke alarms mandatory if this is supported by a quite separate review of the building regulations. Although that review has been completed, the government has still refused to say if it will act, and, if so, when.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms cost peanuts, save lives and cut the number of serious illness and injuries. The government should just get on with it.