CO: A killer in our midst
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
As the nation tentatively starts to reach for its central heating dials, governing bodies are urging homeowners to make sure their boilers and heaters are up to code. By not doing so, you could pay the ultimate price.
Off the back of last week’s annual Gas Safety Week, the UKLPG (trade association for the liquefied petroleum gas (LP Gas) industry) has issued a national warning.
Rob Shuttleworth, chief executive of UKLPG, says: “UKLPG...working closely with the Gas Safe Register...are reminding LP Gas users to invest in boiler and heater maintenance servicing in the run up to winter. This will ensure system safety and efficiency and...also protect users against life-threatening risks.
One of the major risks Mr Shuttleworth refers to is carbon monoxide poisoning, which is even more lethal given its invisibility.
Carbon Monoxide is a highly poisonous gas which can kill quickly with no warning, which is why households are encouraged to have alarms in their homes, and to be aware of poisoning symptoms (headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness). It can be produced by boilers, cookers and gas fires when fossil fuels do not burn completely. With no taste, appearance or smell it can be very hard to spot and fatal without any warning.
Warning signs that a gas appliance isn’t working properly include lazy yellow or orange flames instead of crisp blue ones, black marks on or around the appliance and too much condensation in the room.
Hertfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service has issued a reminder to the county as well, listing the following as the best steps to take as the weather begins to change.
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- Have all your gas appliances regularly serviced and safety checked every year If you rent your home ask for a copy of the landlord’s current gas safety record.
- Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm. These are available from any good DIY store and will alert you if there is carbon monoxide in your home.
- If you have an open fire or wood burner ensure the chimney or flue is clear and regularly swept
- Only use a Gas Safe registered engineer to fit, fix or service your appliances. Check your engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card. Make sure they are qualified for the work you need doing. You can find this information on the back of the card.
Hertfordshire County Council Cabinet Member for Community Safety Richard Thake, said: “It is important that householders understand that by not maintaining gas appliances properly, they could be putting themselves and their family at risk. That’s why we’re calling on residents to get their appliances checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer and install carbon monoxide alarms.”
In November, the 10th annual Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week will take place, run by founder Lynn Griffiths who says there is little understanding of the long-term effects on those who have been affected.
“There is an urgent need for medical examinations to be conducted for all those who have suffered CO poisoning,” says Ms Griffiths, who describes The current lack of support as “unbelievable”. She speaks from personal experience.
Despite the gas fire in her home being regularly serviced, it was later discovered that the flue had been blocked with builder’s rubble. Because of the silent encroachment of the gas, her family were unaware that it was affecting them. Her sons began to behave oddly in school and lack concentration and her daughter, who she was pregnant with at the time, was not growing as she should do. Her fourth child, a son, was poisoned before birth and washed rushed to intensive care due to a blocked main artery, and her husband sadly died of lung cancer, highly likely to have been caused by the effects of the carbon monoxide.
“Being poisoned...is a living nightmare for both adults and children. The nightmare can and does last for decades, as I know fist hand only too well,” says Ms Griffiths. “I have acquired a brain injury because of my exposure to carbon monoxide. Due to this I have a real difficulty remembering things, my spelling is getting worse - the simplest of words such as “is” turn out as “si” it can take me hours to write a simple email.”
2015’s Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week runs from 16 - 22 November. “If you know any company or organisation looking for a charity to support, please ask them to think of us,” concludes Ms Griffiths. “We need lots of support to mark our landmark tenth year. The charity’s Department of Health funding stopped in 2009 and I believe that carbon monoxide incidents started to rise.”