Carbon monoxide (CO) is an extremely dangerous toxic gas. Not only is it odourless, colourless and tasteless. but very few people even know about it. This is despite the fact that the gas can be produced from appliances in the home - such as boilers, gas fires and cookers - if they fail to burn fuel properly.
CO poisoning accounts for approximately 50 deaths a year in the UK, and up to 4,000 medical visits, according to the Department of Health, What’s more, Freedom of Information (FOI) reports (sourced by Project SHOUT) have shown a 10% rise in NHS reported incidents - from 2,220 cases in 2013/14 to 2,430 in 2015/16.
Project SHOUT stories
Launched in 2015, Project SHOUT is an award winning national campaign aiming to change these statistics by raising awareness of CO poisoning and how it can be prevented – by carrying out regular maintenance on fuel-burning appliances, sweeping chimneys, and installing CO alarms.
For Stacey Rogers, the danger of CO was unknown, until it was too late. She sadly lost her son to carbon monoxide poisoning, and now wants to help Project SHOUT raise awareness so that others don’t suffer the same fate.
See the full story here:
Roland Wessling also lost his partner to CO poisoning on a camping trip.
See his full story here:
By sharing stories like Stacey’s and Roland's, Project SHOUT demonstrates just how dangerous carbon monoxide can be, and how potentially anyone is at risk.
Preventing carbon monoxide poisoning
The symptoms of carbon monoxide - including headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue and fainting - can also be suggestive of flu, food poisoning or tiredness - hence why so many will wrongly interpret their symptoms. If you and your family are experiencing the same symptoms simultaneously, and these diminish when you leave the house, then this is a key indicator that there may be carbon monoxide in your home.
The level of carbon monoxide in the air is measured in a system called Parts Per Million (PPM), whereby long-term exposure to just 10 PPM can give rise to some serious health effects. Given a CO alarm is the only proven method of detection, it is fundamental that you install one with low level CO detection technology, such as those provided by FireAngel and AngelEye - all supporters of the Project SHOUT campaign.
To find out more about carbon monoxide - where it can come from and how to prevent it - please see the FireAngel and Project SHOUT free handout below:
The sooner the resident becomes aware of the gas, the sooner they can can take action against it - by turning off all fuel-burning appliances, opening all the doors and windows, evacuating, and contacting their local engineer. Alternatively, if there is an emergency, the ambulance service and the National Gas Service (0800 111 999) can be contacted, or any other gas/fuel supplier on their emergency number. It is far better to detect carbon monoxide as soon as it appears, than having to later treat for its harmful effects.
CO legislation and guidance
Carbon monoxide regulation varies throughout the UK according to location, type of property and the installed appliances. In England and Wales, the main legislation for private landlords to refer to is the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. This states that a CO alarm should be fitted in any room with a fuel-burning appliance. Supplementary to this, the Building Regulations Approved Document J states that a CO alarm should be fitted when a new/ replacement solid fuel appliance (e.g. those that are wood and coal burning, not gas) is installed in a dwelling.
BS EN 50292: 2013 outlines the best practice for the selection, installation and maintenance of carbon monoxide alarms in domestic premises (in addition to caravans and boats). For those providing rental properties, this standard should be considered a key point of reference in helping to safeguard tenants in the home.
For more information on carbon monoxide regulation for private and social landlords in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland - see our blog post here.
If you’re looking for more information on fire safety in social housing, you can download our free eBook.
What can you do?
An average of six people attend A&E every day with suspected carbon monoxide poisoning and these figures continue to increase. Worryingly, this rise is particularly prevalent in the number of incidents that involve children and elderly - some of the most vulnerable in society.
“CO poisoning can only be detected by an alarm as you can’t see, smell or taste it. Children and older people are particularly at risk because their bodies are more susceptible and, in the case of some older people, are less likely to keep their appliances serviced.” - says Rob Lyon, the campaign director for Project SHOUT.
It is therefore paramount to install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home, and encourage others to do the same. This can also be wirelessly interlinked to other alarms in the house, meaning that if one alarm is triggered, then they all sound. This ensures that any resident, regardless of where they are in the home, will be able to hear the alarm.
Furthermore, given interlinking Wi-Safe 2 alarms mimic the specific sound pattern of the triggering alarm, the resident can act appropriately as soon as the alarm is heard e.g. by evacuating in a smoke alarm, or by opening all windows, turning off fuel-burning appliances and then evacuating in a CO alarm.
Following on from the success of last year, Project SHOUT has re-launched its ‘University Challenge’ - a multi-media competition encouraging students to depict the dangers of CO through a creative medium (such as film, photography or graphic design). This both educates the participants about the gas, but also increases awareness for the public, particularly as they are asked to vote for the winner.