Campaigners are trying to cut the annual toll of deaths and injuries caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, which saw 4,000 Britons treated in hospital last year alone.
Experts warned that carbon monoxide poisoning, which killed at least 50 in the UK last year, is often unrecognised because its early symptoms can be easily mistaken for tiredness, flu or food poisoning.
Christine McGourty of Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! said: ‘We are urging people to go out and buy an alarm now – but there are also two simple steps we’d like the Government to take.
‘Firstly, building regulations should be amended so that new homes come with alarms already installed. Secondly, providing an alarm should be part of a landlord’s annual gas safety inspection.’
Inhaling carbon monoxide reduces the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, leaving the body’s organs and cells starved of oxygen. It can lead to severe confusion, coma and death.
Early symptoms such as nausea, stomach cramps and dizziness are often mistaken for flu or food poisoning. However, carbon monoxide does not cause a high temperature.
The gas has no colour, taste or smell the only effective way to detect it is with an audible alarm.
Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, charcoal, coal and wood do not burn fully. The most common cause of this is when appliances such as a boiler or cooker is installed incorrectly or is poorly maintained.
Carbon monoxide can also build up when flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.
Alarms are available from many DIY stores, supermarkets, high street shops or directly from energy suppliers. They can cost as little as £15 and many retailers will be offering special discounts in support of the campaign.
Research carried out last month found that 63% of UK homes do not have a carbon monoxide alarm and 78% of people do not know that the gas can kill.
The poll of 2,001 adults was conducted by ICM, on September 26 and 27.
CARBON MONOXIDE NEARLY KILLED MY WHOLE FAMILY
Zonera Rehman, an HR advisor from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, said a carbon monoxide leak in her home put her whole family in grave danger, earlier this year…
Mrs Rehman, 30, said: ‘It was the school Easter holidays and we had just returned from a week away in Stoke on Trent when my husband and our two boys – Zachariah (4) and Zain (2) first started to feel unwell.
‘It had been a really hectic week and we had done a lot of travelling so when we all started to feel tired, at first we simply put it down to normal fatigue. But then the tiredness became much more severe – at one stage I could hardly keep my head up I was so drowsy, and my four year old son who is usually full of beans was sleeping all the time.
‘My husband, who is really fit and active, was napping in the day, something I had never known him to do. I would never describe us as a ‘couch potato family’, so when things hadn’t changed after four days, we realised that something was up.
‘It was my husband who first thought about the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning, and on a hunch he bought an alarm. When we turned it on, the alarm went off immediately and kept going off.
‘Despite this, we still didn’t quite believe it as we had no problems with our heating or water. My husband decided to buy another alarm – one that showed carbon monoxide levels so we could be absolutely sure.
‘When this showed really high levels, we immediately called the gas board and a plumber. The gas man turned off the gas and when the plumber arrived he tested the levels of carbon monoxide in our home. Normal levels are around 10 – our levels were above 200.
‘It was a fault with our boiler than had caused the carbon monoxide leak. We did all the right things and got our boiler checked every year, so it just goes to show you can never be sure you are safe unless you have an alarm.
‘After we realised what the problem was we evacuated our home and stayed at my mother in laws. After a week, we returned home. We now have two carbon monoxide alarms, which we test almost every day.
‘I feel so lucky that we are all alive. It was unusual for all four of us to be home together for that amount of time – if it wasn’t the school holidays it is likely we wouldn’t have realised what the problem was in time.
‘The doctor told us there was high change we could have all died in our sleep. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about what could have happened.
‘The fact that the highest levels of carbon monoxide were found in my oldest son’s bedroom still sends shivers down my spine. The thought that I was so close to losing a child will haunt me forever.’
For more information and advice about carbon monoxide alarms visit http://www.co-bealarmed.co.uk/