By Martin Banks – 29th January 2013
This odourless, colourless, tasteless gas kills more people than HIV/Aids and skin cancer. And yet carbon monoxide does not receive the same level of attentionLinda McAvan
Her demand comes after 23 people were taken to hospital after they became unwell at a Catholic youth movement meeting in Antwerp at the weekend. They were treated for the effects of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning which is thought to have escaped from the heating system into the hall.
Speaking at a parliamentary seminar, ‘Stop the silent killer,’ McAvan, a Socialist deputy, said the public needed to know more about how to prevent CO from escaping from heating appliances in their homes.
She said, “This odourless, colourless, tasteless gas kills more people than HIV/Aids and skin cancer. And yet carbon monoxide does not receive the same level of attention.”
McAvan, who hosted the event, said she believes “much more regulatory attention is needed”.
She added, “Harmonising the standard for detectors is one thing but we need to make that the law.
“There are good quality detectors out there, but the fact that not all detectors comply with even the basic [European] standard before being placed on the EU market, is a disgrace”.
The event heard that open-flue boilers – also known as instant water heaters – and indoor barbecues are “important” sources of CO in homes and cause a high proportion of deaths in Europe.
McAvan underlined the need for a “forum” for authorities from member states to share best practices on “this deadly, poisonous gas”.
“We need better data and more targeted campaigns. If we had better data, we would realise that the problem is even bigger than we thought as many cases go unreported,” she said.
McAvan urged the commission to “urgently assess internally what is being done” – and what more could be done – at European level, and encouraged member states to “work together and seek a platform within which to discuss and address the problems related to CO”.
McAvan said that she would continue to put pressure on the commission to come forward with a “coherent plan” to address the issue.
In the meantime, she said she was keen to use the event to share best practices in awareness raising from different member states.
The event gathered officials from the commission, WHO/Europe, experts from the UK, France, Poland, Belgium, European associations, and civil society.
Peter Bischoff-Everding, from the commission’s DG Sanco, presented upcoming policy initiatives which he said would address some aspects of the carbon monoxide problem.
Initiatives include revising and harmonising the standards for CO detectors, improving hotel safety, and making specific labelling of indoor barbeques mandatory, he said.
Chris Bielby, of the gas industry safety group, and Zoe Forman, from the council for gas detection & environmental monitoring (CoGDEM), presented what they called the “positive” results in tackling the problem.