Carbon monoxide poisoning: Who is most at risk?

Protecting vulnerable or low-income households this winter

As winter approaches and the nights draw in, we are all trying to stay warm at home. With increased use of fuel burning appliances such as log burners or gas boilers, we are all at greater risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. With over 4000 people attending A&E departments due to carbon monoxide poisoning in England each year, are some households more at risk than others?

Staying safe in the dead of winter

Dr Sotiris Vardoulakis 1 from Public Health England stated that many deaths relating to CO poisoning occur between November and February due to faulty fossil fuel and wood burning appliances leaking this lethal gas. He urges everyone to have their solid fuel burning appliances checked by a registered engineer before the start of winter and to have a suitable carbon monoxide alarm installed in each room containing an appliance.

Kidde carbon monoxide alarm placed near a gas fire
Kidde carbon monoxide alarm located near a gas fire

Who is most at risk?

Recent studies have shown that lower income households are more at risk of CO poisoning. Research carried out by the National Energy Action charity and the Gas Safety Trust found that 35% of low income and vulnerable households surveyed exceeded the 10ppm threshold for carbon monoxide levels. This threshold indicates levels of CO that are harmful with prolonged exposure, having adverse effects on the body and brain.

Why are low income and vulnerable households more at risk? 

There is shown to be a direct correlation between fuel poverty and carbon monoxide poisoning. Lower income households are often reliant on older boilers to heat their homes. These are often less efficient and carry a greater risk of emitting CO gas if not properly serviced and maintained. Some households in this category did not have a central heating system and were reliant on smaller, often older heaters or even gas stoves or cookers to heat their homes.

Research carried out by Dr Andy Shaw from Liverpool John Moores University found that deprived areas were less likely to own an audible CO alarm than homes in non-deprived areas, further increasing the risk of CO poisoning. As these households are more at risk of the presence of CO gas, having a detector is vital. CO gas is otherwise undetectable by humans without the presence of a CO detector due to it having no colour, taste or smell.

Over 60s were also found to be particularly vulnerable to CO poisoning. This could be attributed to the likelihood of them spending more time at home and feeling the cold, resulting in the need to use an appliance more regularly to stay warm. Elderly people, or those with respiratory problems are also more at risk from the effects of carbon monoxide, becoming ill more quickly. With symptoms being similar to those of flu or food poisoning, a headache, nausea and dizziness may be attributed to those common illnesses rather than to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Headache or dizziness is a symptom of co poisoning
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can easily be mistaken for flu or a common cold or sickness bug

Other groups shown to be disproportionately affected by CO poisoning include pregnant women, young children, anyone with an existing respiratory condition and elderly people.

Common symptoms to look out for

Otherwise known as ‘the silent killer’, carbon monoxide can cause severe symptoms and even death if not detected quickly. Look out for these symptoms in yourself or others:

Symptoms of CO Poisoning

Supporting those most at risk

We can all play our part to ensure that vulnerable people and lower income households are protected against carbon monoxide poisoning. By ensuring that everyone follows these simple guidelines, we can help to protect ourselves and our communities.

  1. Be in the know about CO. Would you be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning? Learn how to spot the dangers, signs and symptoms of CO poisoning and help to educate those around you. Findings by the Gas Safe Register2 in 2019 revealed that only one in five respondents said they would be aware of a carbon monoxide leak in their homes if they felt unwell.
  2. Have your gas or solid fuel appliances serviced regularly. According to the latest UK inspection figures from Gas Safe Register, 5.5 million homes in the UK have unsafe gas appliances. When did you last have your appliance checked?
  3. Install a CO alarm where required. It is recommended that a carbon monoxide alarm be installed in every room in the house containing an appliance that could leak CO gas.  Is your home covered? Check with vulnerable friends, family or neighbours to see if they need help installing a carbon monoxide alarm.

The All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG) is calling for protection for the most vulnerable households in England to be a priority. Their recommendations include making it mandatory for CO alarms to be installed in every property whether it be private rented, social housing or owner-occupied. Scotland is introducing new regulations next year which include a stipulation to fit a carbon monoxide alarm in every home. It is hoped that other countries within the UK will follow suit.

Further information and advice on carbon monoxide poisoning including the signs and symptoms, and what to do in a CO emergency can be found on our information page. You can also download our printable information sheet which can be placed in a prominent place in your home. Or, why not give it to, or talk it through with anyone who you think could be vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning. This resource contains an action plan for what to do if a CO alarm sounds and what symptoms to look out for as well as general awareness.

Download our information sheet and share with relatives or friends

References:

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/reduce-the-risk-of-carbon-monoxide-poisoning-over-winter
  2. https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/news/news-2020/over-80-of-uk-adults-at-risk-of-missing-hangover-like-carbon-monoxide-poisoning-symptoms/

Are you in danger in your own home? Join the fight for a Gas Safe Nation

In light of the Covid 19 pandemic, safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. We all know that hand washing and basic hygiene are an essential part of life in 2020, but how many of us can be absolutely sure that our homes are gas safe? With Gas Safety Week celebrating its tenth year in 2020, it’s time to make sure that you, your friends and family are safe in your own homes.

Protect family and help them to get gas safe at home
Help loved ones and vulnerable individuals to get gas safe

Are you at risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Do you have a gas fire, gas boiler or gas oven? Frighteningly, statistics published by Gas Safety Week show that 1 in 2 gas fires inspected by a Gas Safe Engineer are unsafe. Carbon Monoxide emissions from a poorly fitted, poorly ventilated or faulty gas appliance can be deadly or have severe side effects. Carbon monoxide is odourless and colourless meaning that without a detector, it is very difficult to detect its presence.

There are 2 simple steps to follow to protect yourselves, your family and friends:

  1. Have your gas appliances checked and serviced every year by a Gas Safe Engineer. You can find a gas safety engineer near you here. Check to see if loved ones and vulnerable friends or neighbours have a gas safety certificate that is up to date.
  2. Install an audible carbon monoxide alarm and make sure your friends and relatives have one too. Check that they are marked EN50291 and display the British Standards’ Kitemark. You can find a great selection here that are suitable for use at home.

Common cold or Carbon monoxide poisoning?

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are much like those of a common cold or flu to begin with but can ultimately lead to a coma and death. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, a sore throat or dry cough are all common complaints, but could be as a result of exposure to CO gas. If friends, family or loved ones complain of these symptoms, seem confused or are drowsy and are having trouble breathing, you need to be alert. If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, open all the windows and doors and leave your home immediately. Turn off any appliances that are in use and turn the gas off at the mains if you can. Call the Gas Emergency Services on 0800 111 999 as soon as you can. You should seek medical help straight away if you think that anyone in your household has carbon monoxide poisoning.

Identify symptoms of CO poisoning

Gas safety and Covid 19

There may be some nervousness about engineers visiting your home due to the spread of infection during the current pandemic. Tradesman have strict guidelines to follow set out by the government, but if you are worried you should check what measures your Gas Safe Engineer will be putting in place when he or she visits your home. It is important to proceed with your annual check if you can as you could be putting your family in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. With some Covid 19 restrictions still in place, and many people working remotely, we are all spending more time at home. It is now as important as ever to make your home a safe place for you and your family.

Good carbon monoxide detector to use at home
Digital Display Carbon Monoxide Alarm 10 Yr Life – Kidde 5DCO

Protect loved ones with a carbon monoxide detector

If you have vulnerable or elderly friends, relatives or neighbours, why not give them peace of mind and help them to install a carbon monoxide detector? Carbon monoxide can travel through adjoining walls and so even if you are absolutely sure that all the appliances in your home are gas safe, a detector is the only way to have complete peace of mind. Many detectors have a long life and so remain reliable for long periods and with options for audio and visual cues, there is an alarm suitable for everyone. All of our Kidde battery-operated alarms are available for FREE delivery, so you can have them delivered directly to loved ones for no extra cost and with free standing options available and the battery included on many models, they can be up and running immediately on arrival. Why not browse the range here?

Gas Safety Week challenges us all to think about making our homes as safe from the dangers of gas as possible. For more information and advice, head to the gas safety week website. Or, for more information on CO alarms, please contact our customer care team on 0800 612 6537.

Is Your Holiday Home Protected From The ‘Silent Killer’? Carbon Monoxide Responsibilities For Accommodation Providers

When someone books a holiday, what features do they look for? Maybe a hot tub, fire pit or log burner for that little bit of luxury? A carbon monoxide detector might not be top of the list, but with carbon monoxide (CO), or the ‘Silent Killer’ responsible for around 60 accidental deaths every year in England and Wales, ensuring your holiday accommodation is CO safe should be a priority. Did you know that as a holiday home owner in England, you have a legal responsibility to comply with regulations relating to carbon monoxide safety? Holiday-makers want to have peace of mind that their safety is a top priority when booking a holiday, and carbon monoxide safety is no exception.

Why is carbon monoxide dangerous?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas with no smell or taste and can be difficult to detect without the aid of a carbon monoxide detector. Symptoms such as tiredness, shortness of breath, nausea and headaches can be easily mistaken for flu or food poisoning. However, after exposure to high levels for 2 hours, the person may become unconscious and could die from this poisonous gas. With such sudden consequences, early detection is critical.

Accommodation providers: Your responsibilities

CO gas is produced by the incomplete burning of fuels containing carbon, for example coal, wood, gas or charcoal. A build-up in emissions of CO gas can come from:
• Faulty gas appliances
• Fuel burning stoves, open fires or BBQs used in poorly ventilated areas
• Running a car engine in an enclosed space.

Holiday Home Owners, like landlords, have a responsibility to ensure that their properties are compliant with the regulations Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015. These regulations state that a carbon monoxide detector should be fitted in any room that has a solid fuel burning appliance such as a log burner or open fire. Whilst not a legal requirement, it is also advisable to install a detector in any room with a gas or oil burning appliance such as a boiler or oven. You should also check and log all smoke and CO alarms on change-over day for added peace on mind.

The maintenance of gas appliances in all properties is also of paramount importance. The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 outlines the legal duties of self-catering accommodation providers to ensure the safety of any guests. All gas appliances should be installed and checked annually by a Gas Safe Engineer. Accommodation providers need to ensure adequate ventilation throughout the holiday accommodation. This is of particular importance in caravans, lodges and tents or glamping pods.

Provide information for your tenants

With frequent change-over of tenants and short-term occupancy, it may also help to provide a factsheet with guidance on carbon monoxide safety. Information such as how to locate and turn off the mains gas supply, what to do if the carbon monoxide alarm goes off or who to contact in an emergency may prove invaluable. Some tenants will be unfamiliar with gas appliances and general advice on how to use them safely could be useful.

Furthermore, unlike some smoke alarms that are prone to false triggers, a CO alarm is very unlikely to go off unless it detects carbon monoxide. False alarms are very unlikely and residents should be advised to act immediately and assume it is an emergency situation. Many people are not aware of the CO emissions from BBQs and camp fires. Cosy fires and family BBQs can prove deadly if emissions are allowed to accumulate in a tent, glamping pod or caravan. Campsites or caravan sites are advised to alert campers to the possible dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from these activities.

Confidence in the UK holiday market

With the trend in UK ‘staycations’ looking set to continue into next year, ensuring the safety of guests in all accommodation will only help to increase confidence in UK holidays. Families should have peace of mind that their safety is of the utmost importance. There are many options for carbon monoxide alarms including combined or separate smoke and CO alarms, audible and visual cues and fixed or portable units. The requirement of each accommodation type varies depending on size, risks and structure.

The Kidde 7DCO alarm is a great solution for most providers as it is Kitemarked as safe for use in all domestic situations as well as in caravans, boats and tents. Its 10-year lifespan, digital display and option for free-standing or wall-mounting makes it a reliable and flexible option. And, with readings taken every 15 seconds and displayed on the digital panel, guests would have complete peace of mind that they are protected from the ‘silent killer’.

A suitable carbon monoxide alarm
Digital Display Carbon Monoxide Alarm 10 Yr Warranty – Kidde 7DCO

If you are an accommodation provider and would like more information, please contact our customer care team on 0800 612 6537.

Project SHOUT launches today

project-shoutProject SHOUT, a campaign to raise awareness of carbon monoxide (chemical symbol CO) poisoning, launches today, September 7th 2015. We are proud to support this initiative and help spread the word about the silent killer – carbon monoxide.

Here are some of the facts: Tragically around 50 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning, 200 people require hospital treatment and a staggering 4000 people attend an A&E clinic with suspected CO poisoning. Yet there is still a lack of awareness of the dangers of CO.

How can we change these facts and figures? By spreading the awareness and knowledge that CO is a threat to anyone who has a fuel burning appliance in their home or lives in a home that is adjacent to a property with a fuel burning appliance.

CO is the result of ineffective burning of a carbon based fuel and it can leak into a home if flues are not working correctly or if, for example, gas burning appliances are faulty. Labelled as the silent killer carbon monoxide can not be detected by humans. It has no taste, smell or colour and can only be detected with the help of a carbon monoxide alarm.

Find out more about Project SHOUT. If you want to protect your family from the dangers of CO, take advantage of our special offer. For help and advice contact us on 0800 612 6537 or visit our carbon monoxide help pages.

Chimney Fire Safety Week 2015

chimneyOver 7000 emergencies attended by the fire brigade during 2013/14 were classified as chimney fires in the annual fire statistics report. Poor chimney maintenance is a known cause of domestic fires, most chimney fires are preventable.

Chimney Fire Safety Week 2015 takes place from the 7th until the 13th of September this year. The event is intended to highlight the causes of chimney fires and emphasise how to prevent a chimney fire from occurring in the first place. The most common causes of chimney fires are inappropriately sized or poorly installed appliances, blocked chimneys from soot or bird nests and the burning of unseasoned or wet wood.

The best way to protect your home is to have your chimney swept regularly. The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps recommends that people burning wood or coal on a regular basis should have their chimney swept quarterly, whereas those burning smokeless fuel, oil or gas should aim to have their chimneys swept at least once a year.

Infrequent sweeping of your chimney significantly increases the risk of a fire, and the consequences can be devastating and costly. Even a successfully extinguished chimney fire creates a great deal of mess and is a traumatic experience.

Whilst having your chimney swept regularly will greatly reduce the risk of fire, it is still important to have a means of alerting your family in case fire strikes. Chimney fires are often reported as creating a disconcerting low rumbling noise accompanied by cracking and popping from within the chimney. If you are awake, these signs are often enough to alert you to the problem, but if you are asleep, your family are much more vulnerable.

An interconnected system of smoke alarms will quickly detect any smoke released as a result of the chimney fire and raise the alarm across your entire household. Speed of detection is key, as a swift escape and notification of the fire brigade will greatly reduce the danger to your family and damage to your property.

Your regular chimney maintenance and smoke detection system should also be supplemented by a carbon monoxide detector. Poisonous carbon monoxide (CO) is created by the incomplete combustion of fuels such as wood, coal & oil. If working properly, your chimney will draw the carbon monoxide away with the smoke. However, if your chimney is partially blocked, carbon monoxide can seep out into your home rather than being drawn away. Carbon monoxide cannot be tasted or smelled and has dangerous health implications, leading to many deaths every year in the UK.

A house fire as a consequence of a poorly maintained chimney is a terrible thought, and should be enough to motivate anyone to take steps to protect their home from the risk. Having your chimney swept regularly, ensuring your smoke alarm system is in good order, and installing a carbon monoxide detector will ensure that you are giving your family the best possible chance of avoiding the dangers and trauma of a chimney fire.

For further information contact our customer support team via support@safelincs.co.uk

Carbon Monoxide Danger on Holiday

Family vacationA recent ruling against a well-known holiday operator has again highlighted the very real dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning for holidaymakers. The heartbreaking death of two young children on vacation with their family in Corfu occurred in October 2006. The return to prominence of this terrible and avoidable tragedy serves as a potent reminder of the risks of carbon monoxide whether at home or abroad.
Whilst general awareness of the threat posed by CO is rising, sadly most people simply fail to consider the issue when travelling. At home you are personally able to ensure that fuel burning appliances have been installed correctly and that they have been adequately maintained, however on holiday we rely on those managing the holiday accommodation to do this for us. Carbon monoxide is often cited as the most common cause of accidental poisoning. Children, babies and pregnant women are especially vulnerable, but everyone should take steps to protect themselves against the dangers of this invisible, odourless and lethal gas.
At high levels of exposure, carbon monoxide can kill within minutes. Just a single night’s sleep in proximity to a faulty boiler can prove fatal. The faulty appliance need not even be in the same room, as, frighteningly, CO is capable of reaching life threatening levels even when seeping through walls from adjacent areas.
The only way to ensure you are protected against this danger is to carry a portable CO alarm when travelling, and ensure it is active when you sleep. You may find advice elsewhere stating that colour changing dot type indicators are suitable to take on holiday, but this is simply not the case. People are by far at their most vulnerable when asleep, and these types of indicators cannot wake you in the event of carbon monoxide reaching dangerous levels whilst you sleep.
For as little as £13.67, you can ensure your family is safe from carbon monoxide poisoning throughout your holiday. Please make sure you add a carbon monoxide detector to your holiday checklist. It may be the most important thing you take with you.
For further information about the dangers of carbon monoxide and the symptoms you should look out for, please visit our CO information website.

UK’s Chief Fire Officers and Safelincs launch new online fire safety shop

Chief Fire Officers AssociationCFOA, the Chief Fire Officers Association, through their subsidiary Blue Watch and in partnership with Safelincs, have launched a fire safety shop offering information and fire safety products for landlords, tenants and home owners. The site is a one-stop shop to allow residential users to select the products most suitable for their application, safe in the knowledge that the products have been carefully selected and are suitable for them. Each category of buyer has its own selection of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms and fire extinguishers to choose from.

The website will help increase fire safety awareness and raises funds for CFOA to allow it to promote its fire safety messages in an environment of government cutbacks.

Harry Dewick-Eisele, managing director, Safelincs, commented: “I am very pleased Safelincs has been chosen by the CFOA to create and run the Blue Watch Shop website. It is a testament to our reputation and high level of customer satisfaction that such a prestigious organisation has entrusted us to manage its sales operations.”

The site will sell a selection of smoke alarms, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide alarms with Safelincs managing and fulfilling all orders on behalf of the CFOA.
Bluewatch Website

We have just made protecting yourself even more affordable

Kidde Smoke Alarm and CO Detector Special OffersNow that the heating season is truly under way it is time to review your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure you are fully protected. Smoke alarms and CO detectors should be tested once every half year but as a minimum one test per year should be carried out. To ensure that your alarms are not running out of battery power and to avoid that you get woken in the middle of the night by a low battery beep, alkaline batteries should preemptively changed once a year. The lifespan of your alarms also need checking. While smoke alarms are designed to last a full ten years, most CO detectors only last 5 to 7 years.

Any units that are out of date or fail their test need to be replaced. If you find any areas of the house that are not protected yet, you should consider purchasing new smoke and CO alarms to fill these blind spots. To make this more affordable, Safelincs, in partnership with Kidde Safety Europe, one of the leading manufacturers of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, have introduced two great special offers.

At entry level we are now offering a standard smoke alarm together with a 7 year life CO alarm for just £13.49+VAT.

To stop you having to purchase new alkaline batteries every year and to make sure you get the maximum life out of your alarms we are also offering a top of the range 10 year smoke alarm with sealed 10 year battery and a 10 year carbon monoxide detector with a sealed 10 year battery to give you maximum protection and convenience for only £27.49+VAT.

When you can protect your home and family for a decade at a cost of under £30.00 there really is no excuse for not taking action today!

We are also here to help you with your regular testing regime. We can remind you free of charge when your next test is due – at a test frequency chosen by you.

Kidde releases the UK’s first combined optical smoke and carbon monoxide detector – The Kidde 10DS.

kidde-10sco-smoke-and-carbon-monoxide-detectorKidde Safety, one of the leading manufacturers of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, has recently released the UK’s first combined optical smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector. The new alarm, which is powered by a single 9V battery instead of the usual 3 x AA cells, carries a 10 year warranty and features an ‘end-of-life’ warning to alert the user that the alarm has reached the end of its operating life.
Kidde have included several simple but clever features with the 10DS, such as a front mounted battery compartment which allows the battery to be replaced without removing the alarm and dual voice warnings of either ‘FIRE! FIRE!’ or ‘WARNING! CARBON MONOXIDE’ depending on the danger detected.
The Kidde 10DS is also the first combined unit to be kitemarked for both the optical sensor and carbon monoxide sensor separately. Add in the test/reset/hush feature and the peak level memory function and you end up with a great all round alarm suitable for use in homes, holiday chalets, caravans and even boats, saving space and potentially lives.

Confusion between NG/LPG gas leaks and carbon monoxide poisoning

We get occasionally calls from customers worrying why their CO (carbon monoxide) alarm has not gone off when their house is smelling strongly of a gas leak from the gas supply system (eg if the pilot flame in a boiler has been extinguished).

A lady rung the other day, stating that the pilot light of her LPG heater had gone out, leaving unburned flammable gas leaking into the room. She had quickly identified the smell of the gas (due to the risk of explosion from flammable gases, the gas suppliers add odorant to their gas which adds a strong smell, allowing people to detect a gas leak swiftly). Our customer was worried, as she had expected that her CO alarm would also pick up this leak. This is, of course, a misconception. CO alarms only detect the poisonous, odourless by-products from burning processes called carbon monoxide (CO). CO gas is created when flammable gas is burned without enough oxygen. CO detectors cannot detect flammable gases.

Chemically, carbon monoxide and flammable gases from a piped or bottled gas supply are very different.

Carbon monoxide consist simply of two atoms: 1x carbon and 1x oxygen.

Flammable gases (methane, propane, butane being the most common) have larger structures:

methane (1 carbon, 4x hydrogen atoms)

propane (3x carbon, 8x hydrogen)

butane (4x carbon, 10x hydrogen)

If you wish to protect yourself against leaks of flammable, unburned gases, specialist gas detectors need to be purchased.