A survey of university students has revealed that awareness levels about the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning could be improved and that more campaigns targeted at this group are required, the UK’s leading fuel safety charity, the Gas Safety Trust announced today. The pilot study, funded by the Gas Safety Trust, was carried out by the Safe and Healthy Housing Unit at Warwick University to evaluate the effectiveness of CO campaigns on students in private rented accommodation.Alarmingly, most of those interviewed (88%) could not identify the colour of a gas flame that could cause danger and only 12% said they had changed their behaviour following the campaigns such as by fitting a CO detector.While the level of knowledge before the campaigns was found to be average,with around 70% positive responses, the research findings revealed no more than a 20% increase in CO awareness among university students. As the level of awareness had not reached the 80% considered high enough for sufficient public health protection, the report suggests that the campaigns were not sufficiently effective.

As a result, the report recommends that CO awareness campaigns are necessary, that they need to be targeted at specific vulnerable groups, and their effectiveness should be monitored.Commenting on the findings, Gas Safety Trust Board Chair, Chris Bielby said:‘As well as targeting campaigns for specific vulnerable groups, monitoring will help ensure that the campaigns are informing and influencing the intendedaudiences’.‘There are a large number of bodies with responsibilities for, or interests in,preventing CO poisoning incidents. There is a need for co-ordination between Universities and the local authorities, Fire and Rescue Services, the Health and Safety Executive, and local health centres.‘Ideally, all accommodation for students should be fitted with working CO detectors and residents made aware of them’.