35 million Britons may be at risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- 2nd May 2014
A study, conducted by the Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign suggests that more than half the population is at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning because they do not have an alarm in their home and relatively few workplaces have the devices installed.
44% of those surveyed thought they didn’t need one because they already had a smoke alarm fitted. This is a common misconception and very few people realise that a smoke alarm does not detect carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide has no smell, colour or taste and can be produced by any faulty or poorly ventilated fuel-burning appliance such as a boiler, fire or cooker. There have even been instances of carbon monoxide poisoning when using a poorly ventilated BBQ.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are very hard to recognise, even for doctors, as they are similar to many common illnesses like flu and food poisoning. That makes it very easy to miss the warning signs, with life-threatening consequences. In England and Wales changes were made to the building regulations relating to carbon monoxide detectors in October 2010. A carbon monoxide detector must now be fitted in any rooms that have either a replacement or new fixed solid fuel-burning appliance installed.
The use of these potentially life-saving devices domestically or at work is not obligatory. The building regulations merely suggest that ‘while it is appropriate to require carbon monoxide alarms with solid fuel appliances, such alarms can still reduce the risk of poisoning from other types of appliances.’
In Scotland, where an estimated 2.4 million people without carbon monoxide alarms are thought to be at risk, the Scottish government has gone one step further than the rest of the UK. As from October 1st 2013 the Scottish building regulations insisted that carbon monoxide alarms were fitted when a new or replacement boiler or other appliance using any type of fuel – not just solid fuel but gas, wood burning or oil – was installed.
Sarah Cunliffe, a solicitor with Access Legal specialising in carbon monoxide claims, suggests that the best way to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning at home or at work is to ensure appliances are fitted correctly and maintained regularly by qualified personnel. Given good installation and maintenance practices, fitting carbon monoxide alarms should be part of a ‘belt and braces’ approach to safety in the workplace and at home. She adds:
“More than 50 people die and 200 are left seriously ill by carbon monoxide poisoning every year in the UK. Carbon monoxide poisoning is always caused either by faulty equipment, incorrect installation, bad maintenance or poor ventilation. If an individual or company is responsible for any of those faults, they will be liable if you want to make a carbon monoxide poisoning compensation claim.”