The Gas Safety Trust, the prime source for data relating to gas safety in the UK, today published the Carbon Monoxide Hotspot Report 2011, which contains the reported figures of gas-related CO incidents gained from media report gathering throughout the UK.
In the 12-month period between 1st July 2010 and 30th June 2011 there were 50-recorded incidents involving CO poisoning. Of the 105 people involved in these incidents, there were 25 fatalities and 80 injuries without fatal consequences – over three times as many fatalities as were reported in 2010.
The report reveals that the public are still at risk from CO poisoning in rented accommodation at home and abroad, as both domestic landlords and holiday providers are failing to provide adequate safety certificates. It also suggests that medical professionals are similarly unresponsive or unaware of the serious threat posed by carbon monoxide, by failing to diagnose symptoms correctly. Data for 2011 shows that when people exhibiting symptoms associated with CO poisoning sought medical help, only 1% were tested for this possibility.
The Gas Safety Trust is calling for UK householders to be more aware of the dangers of CO, known as the ‘silent killer’ because you cannot smell, taste, hear or see it’s presence, particularly as the time for turning on central heating approaches. Tuesday 11th October is ‘Switch On Day’, the day when most people in the UK turn their central heating on.
October through to March is the high-risk period, during which 72% of CO related incidents occur. The number of incidents peaked in December 2010 when the UK experienced widespread snow and the coldest December for 100 years.
Despite the dramatic rise in recorded incidents, the Gas Safety Trust warns the real figures could actually be much higher.
Nigel Dumbrell, Head of Charitable Operations at the Gas Safety Trust says, ‘While deaths and serious injuries from CO exposure are relatively straightforward to record, the data does not reveal the extent of what might be termed ‘near misses’. The records do not capture information about the number of people who are unwittingly exposed to low levels of CO poisoning; levels that may cause long-term ill health, but go undetected.’
The Gas Safety Trust says further awareness activity is also needed to increase the proportion of households with a CO alarm, given the role of alarms in saving people from serious injury and death. Of all the CO incidents recorded, no incident involving an alarm resulted in a fatality or serious injury.
However, only 42% of people questioned owned an alarm and of those who do own an alarm, 60% revealed that it had yet to be installed.
10% had had bought the cheaper less effective ‘black spot’ detectors – which are often inaccurate and will not alert you to a CO leak if you are out of the room or asleep.
The report reveals that many people are still not following best practice when it comes to getting their appliances serviced regularly, however, it is not only malfunctioning appliances that pose a risk, but blocked chimneys and flues which cause appliances in good working order to become a threat.
The 2011 survey reveals that 44% of people who own a property with a chimney have never had it swept. Given that the cost of having a chimney swept is less than the cost of servicing a boiler, this illustrates that it is a lack of understanding and not cost that is inhibiting people from following best practice.
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