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Campaign group Project SHOUT is warning of a potential carbon monoxide poisoning time-bomb as we head into the winter. The group fears that many people will have delayed servicing their gas appliances such as boilers and gas fires during the coronavirus pandemic as many are frightened of letting other people, even engineers, into their homes or that cash-stretched families have put it off as they simply can’t afford it. 

The campaign group fears we are potentially facing a perfect storm this winter. For many different reasons, homeowners haven’t had their boiler or other appliances serviced and carbon monoxide leaks have gone unchecked. And yet many of us are likely to spend more time than normal at home this winter, as we continue to stay away from the office or as further lockdown restrictions are put in place.

The only method of detecting carbon monoxide in your home is an alarm. Known as the silent killer, carbon monoxide kills around 50 people every year and can’t be seen, smelled or tasted. The advice from Project SHOUT is to get an alarm and have your appliances regularly serviced. 

WHAT IS CO?

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is produced when fuel doesn’t burn properly, usually from badly fitted or poorly maintained appliances. Common sources of CO are gas and oil boilers, gas hobs and fires, log burners, open fires and BBQ’s.

You can’t see, smell or taste carbon monoxide, which is why it is known as the silent killer. 

THE SYMPTOMS

Common symptoms include dizziness, tiredness, headaches, nausea and generally feeling unwell. CO poisoning is often mistaken for something else such as a hangover, a common cold and the flu. The elderly and the very young are particularly vulnerable.

Further research by Project SHOUT has revealed that over one third (35%) of people wouldn’t recognise the symptoms of CO poisoning at all.

STAYING SAFE

Alarms are the only way to detect carbon monoxide. With an estimated two-thirds of homes unprotected by an alarm, around 40 million people are at risk. 

Ensure CO alarms are placed in the correct locations – between 1m and 3m away from any fuel-burning appliance as well as in highly populated areas such as bedrooms and living rooms.

Purchase a CO alarm that complies with British Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European approval mark, such as a Kitemark, to ensure you are protected.

Make sure your gas appliances are installed and serviced regularly by a qualified GAS SAFE registered engineer.

Test your alarm. 80% of residents in properties that DO have an alarm admit that they have no idea whether it works or not as they never test it.

Know where to put your alarm and what to do if your alarm goes off.

THE DANGERS

Approximately 50 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning and thousands more are treated in hospital. 

Be aware that CO can enter your home from a neighbouring property. There have been instances where it has seeped through walls and killed people while they slept.

CO can poison you slowly if you’re subjected to low levels over a period of time. People often feel better when they leave the house and begin to feel worse again when returning home. It can also kill in minutes at high levels. 

GP’s can misdiagnose CO poisoning, particularly as the weather turns colder and many people have colds or flu, as the symptoms are the same. Many patients are told to stay warm, stay indoors and keep the heating on, sending them straight back to the source of the poisoning. 

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