Gas Safety Week 2019 – How aware are you of the dangers from carbon monoxide?

How aware are you of the dangers poorly maintained gas appliances pose to you and your loved ones? This year Gas Safety Week (16th – 22nd September) has a particular focus around the most vulnerable of us, ensuring that everybody is aware of the importance of gas safety and looking at ways to protect every member of our society.

Badly maintained gas appliances can have a devastating effect, causing fires, explosions, gas leaks, and carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas that is produced from poorly combusted gas and it can kill within a few breaths. There are no warning signs, you can’t see, smell or taste it! The only way to detect CO is with a carbon monoxide alarm.

Do you know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

With over 50 deaths from CO poisoning every year in the UK and thousands of recorded cases of CO poisoning it is important to know what to look out for.

There are 8 symptoms to be aware of:

Having persistent dull headaches and tension type headaches.

Persistent Headaches

Having waves of dizziness or feeling light headed and off balance.

Dizziness

Feeling like you need to be sick (nausea) and actually being sick (vomiting)

Nausea / Vomiting

Pains in your stomach or lower abdomen, sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea.

Stomach Pains

Sudden shortness of breath or difficulty breathing (dyspnoea)

Difficulty Breathing

Having no energy or feeling tired, sleepy, lethargic and sluggish.

Tiredness

Sudden collapse, seizures or loss of consciousness.

Sudden Collapse

Confusion, difficulty concentrating and becoming easily irritated.

Confusion

If you, or someone you know, has any of these symptoms, which improve when they leave the house, the chances are that carbon monoxide is present in their home.

What to do if you suspect there is a carbon monoxide leak

If you think there is carbon monoxide leaking into your home you should:

  • Open doors and windows to let fresh air in and turn off your gas appliances before leaving the building
  • Call your gas provider or a Gas Safe Registered Engineer
  • Inform your neighbours, CO can penetrate walls and seep into adjoining properties
  • Seek medical advice
  • DO NOT ENTER your property until you have been told it is safe to do so
  • Install a CO alarm for an early warning signal that the deadly gas is present

How to stay safe

Ensure that gas appliances are well maintained and checked at least once a year by a Gas Safe Registered Engineer. Once you had an appliance serviced it is important to regularly check that it continues to work correctly, for example, gas cooker nozzles may become partially blocked by food, causing the gas not to burn correctly. If you notice any of the following signs, then your gas appliance may not be working correctly.

  • Dull yellow or orange flames
  • Black marks on your appliance or on walls near them
  • A pilot light that frequently goes out
  • Higher than normal amounts of condensation in the room where the appliance is

While thinking about your own gas appliances and how safe they are, have you thought about checking the safety of elderly relatives, too? With deterioration in eyesight and an increased chance of having a disease that affects memory, such as dementia, elderly people are particularly vulnerable. Gas cookers and gas fires can accidentally be left on and an elderly person may not notice that their gas appliance has an orange flame.

Fit a carbon monoxide alarm for peace of mind. The alarm will sound and give early warning sign that CO is present, enabling early evacuation and repair of appliances. Alarms such as the Kidde 5DCO have a digital display, which will display the CO concentration even if there are only very low levels of CO, giving you advanced warning of CO before the levels become dangerously high. If the CO gas levels rise to a dangerous level, the 5DCO will sound the full alarm.

If you would like further advice please call our customer care team on 0800 612 6537.

Gas Emergency Services: 0800 111 999

Angie Dewick-Eisele

Angie Dewick-Eisele

Marketing Manager

Angie has been our marketing manager since joining in 2002. She also has a keen interest in H&S issues.

Safety for retired miners

minersWhen the Northumberland Aged Mineworkers Homes Association (NAMHA) wanted to ensure that all of its accommodation was safe from the deadly carbon monoxide (CO) gas, it turned to Safelincs.

The organisation provides housing for retired miners, the widows of retired miners and others and was aware that around 50 people each year die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, while many others suffer from carbon monoxide related illnesses. It is believed that this figure is, in reality, far higher, as the symptoms can be easily confused with other ailments. Experts believe that some deaths amongst elderly people are not properly investigated and wrongly attributed to natural causes.

So, as well as ensuring that all gas appliances in its properties are regularly serviced, NAMHA took the decision to invest in CO alarms to warn of the presence of the gas. It contacted Safelincs to ascertain which would be the most appropriate for the properties that required protection.

“The staff at Safelincs were extremely supportive and offered useful advice that helped us choose the CO alarms that best suited our requirements,” explained Kevan Davison from NAMHA. “And their products are very competitively priced.”

Safelincs has so far provided over 500 CO alarms, which come with a ten year long-life sealed battery and ten year manufacturer’s warranty.

Safelincs works with brain injury charity

Safelincs has formed a relationship with brain injury charity Headway to increase the awareness of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, to raise funds for the charity and to emphasise the importance of installing a CO alarm.

HeadwayLogoSafelincs has created a Headway branded subsite selling CO alarms linked to directly from the Headway main site. We fulfil the orders and for every alarm sold we donate £2 to the charity.

Headway was formed in 1979 to promote understanding of all aspects of brain injury and to provide information, support and services to people with a brain injury, their families and carers.

CO exposure can lead to anoxic brain injury because it binds very tightly to haemoglobin in the red blood cells and so reduces the amount of oxygen which can be carried in the bloodstream.

Carbon Monoxide is produced if there is not enough oxygen during the combustion process. It is commonly produced in appliances fuelled by Liquefied Petroleum Gas, natural gas, oil, petrol, wood or coal that have been badly fitted, are damaged, badly repaired or poorly maintained.

It is important that appliances are regularly maintained and to have a CO alarm installed. Fatalities have even been known to occur where the deadly gas has leaked from an adjoining property.

Safelincs also offers a dedicated information website to inform about carbon monoxide poisoning.

Long-term effects of CO poisoning

One of the speakers at the launch of Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week at the House of Lords in November 2012 was Dr Steven White. He gave a very interesting presentation on the long-term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, some of which are only recently being fully realised.

Dr White has co-written a factsheet that is published on the website of Headway, the charity that works to improve life after brain injury. With Headway’s permission we reproduce a short extract here.

Like other types of anoxic brain injury, acute CO poisoning may lead to quite severe long-term neurological problems, with disturbances in memory, language, cognition, mood and behaviour. The damage to the basal ganglia, which is a particular feature of CO poisoning, may lead to a movement disorder resembling Parkinson’s disease.

An unusual feature of acute CO poisoning is the delayed deterioration in neurological condition which may be seen in some cases, occurring anything from a few days to as long as five to six weeks after the initial exposure. The reason for this is not entirely clear, but changes in the white matter of the brain seem to be involved. It has been suggested that these may result from demyelination, in which there is loss of the fatty, insulating myelin sheath of the nerve axons, therefore impairing their ability to conduct electrical nerve impulses.

Chronic CO exposure

Chronic (persistent and long-term) exposure to lower levels of CO, as can occur with faulty domestic boilers, may go unrecognised. The symptoms include milder versions of those seen in acute CO poisoning, with headache, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, fatigue and sleepiness, difficulty concentrating and memory problems, as well as changes in mood.

People may be aware that something is wrong, but be unable to identify exactly what is the matter, or may attribute the problems to overwork, stress or depression. If symptoms disappear while away at work, reappearing on returning home, or if other people in the same premises develop similar symptoms, it may become more obvious that there is an environmental cause.

Although most people seem to recover following chronic low level CO exposure when the source is removed, it can also lead to anoxic brain injury. There have been some documented cases of subtle Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) abnormalities and long-term neuropsychological effects.

Treatment of CO poisoning

Treatment of acute exposure to CO involves immediate removal from the source of the poisoning and administration of 100% oxygen, together with general supportive medical care.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is sometimes advocated for severe cases of CO poisoning and involves giving pure oxygen at increased pressures in a hyperbaric chamber. It has been suggested that this may improve the long-term neurological outcome, although it remains controversial. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a specialised technique, which is only available in a few centres. It may also be associated with complications of its own and it is not used routinely.

To read the full factsheet go here

More information about carbon monoxide poisoning and detection can be found on our websites.

Don´t Forget to be CO Aware in the Festive Season

A lot of homes are now fitted with central heating and are so well insulated that open fires are only lit on special occasions to create a cosy ambience. For many, Christmas may be the only time they light their fire. Having open fires that are not regularly maintained could put your life at risk.

It is essential that before the festive season begins you ensure that your chimneys have been swept. This ensures that the coal and wood smoke will be expelled properly and will significantly reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It is also strongly recommended that you have a co alarm in every room where there is a solid fuel burning appliance; this can include kitchens with gas ovens, boiler rooms or living areas with gas or solid fuel fires.

The symptoms of co poisoning are very similar to that of flu and are therefore often overlooked. One major difference is that the symptoms, including headache, lethargy and nausea, improve when you go outside. Should you suffer from any symptoms related to carbon monoxide poisoning, do not hesitate to contact your doctor. For more information about the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning or to find out more on how to protect yourself, the Carbon Monoxide Info website is full of relevant information.

Important facts presented at CO Awareness Launch

Safelincs was invited to the launch of the Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week that was held at the House of Lords on the 19th of November. The week is organised by CO-Aware, a charity that supports the many victims of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning, their families and friends.

A number of very important facts were highlighted during the presentations.

Impact of Long-term Exposure to Carbon Monoxide

The first of these was the long term effects for people who had suffered long-term exposure to carbon monoxide but had seemingly recovered.  There is a common perception that, if a person has been removed from the source of carbon monoxide, they will suffer no long-term problems. Brain specialist Dr Steve White gave a presentation entitled ‘Neurobehavioural problems following CO exposure’ which detailed how exposure to the gas can have a long term effects, such as deterioration of brain tissue following exposure to carbon monoxide.

He used the case study of 45 year old graduate in Boston, USA who was exposed to carbon monoxide whilst working in the kitchen of a restaurant. After a long time, it emerged that there was an appliance leaking the gas. Her initial symptoms were flu –like, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, not walking straight and bumping into things, speech and hearing problems, irritability and facial pain. Once the CO leak was removed her most obvious symptoms improved rapidly.  The lady was subsequently monitored over many months to determine any long-term impact form the poisoning.

Despite having a very high IQ, the lady, over the following months, experienced problems reading and speaking (missing words). There were incidences of memory loss, short attention span and lack of perseverance when set tasks. She also suffered bouts of depression not experienced before.

These problems were believed to be due to the damage caused by carbon monoxide to the basal ganglia of the brain.

The neurobehavioural effects of exposure will vary between individuals and will depend on length and degree of exposure.  One in three people who have been exposed to CO and seemingly recovered could experience illness symptoms about six weeks later.

Barbeques and open fires

There has been quite a lot of publicity this year around tragedies where campers have died from carbon monoxide poisoning after taking a barbeque into a tent for warmth. Mark Pratten from Cornwall Fire and Rescue is an evangelist for raising awareness of CO poisoning and has been taking the message across the county’s camp sites and caravan sites. Unfortunately, whilst people know not to take the barbeques into the tent they assume that this is due to the fire risk and that dying embers on the other hand are quite safe. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Mark’s short talk at the launch provided previously unrecognised information. Tests carried out in Cornwall found that when a barbeque was no longer hot enough for cooking, and was in fact only very slightly warm to the touch, it was emitting MORE carbon monoxide than when it was hot, and at extremely dangerous levels.  If a tray with a warm, disposable barbeque was taken into a closed tent, the CO levels rose up to 900ppm, a level which is potentially deadly.

The same applies to embers from an open fire within a house. Their CO creation potential must not be underestimated and chimneys must not be blocked or air vents closed after a fire until all embers have completely died down. Also, buckets with hot ash must be taken out of the house immediately.

Making GPs aware

Dr Ombarish Banerjee talked about his ‘conversion’ to the awareness of the dangers of CO poisoning. Because symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic so many common health problems, most victims don’t even know they are actually being poisoned. And the same goes for doctors. It is certain that many cases go undiagnosed and are put down to a virus or something similar.

GPs perceive the problem to be rare and more likely to turn up in Accident and Emergency centres. While many doctors have CO readers these are mainly used to show people, who are giving up smoking, how their CO levels have dropped. However, these devices could also be used to assess potential CO victims; however, one must keep in mind that their readings will have dropped significantly since leaving their homes, so misreadings are possible.

Dr Banerjee has been involved in producing a video that is being sent out to GPs and other areas in the NHS aimed at raising awareness.

Other presentations at the launch included stories from victims and relatives. CO- Awareness is fighting to obtain better facilities for victims. Until the effects are more widely recognised this will be an uphill task.

Final note of caution

Positive news is that the government is looking at ways to link compulsory installation of CO alarms to the ‘Green Deal’. However, it is estimated that five million homes have poorly maintained, damaged or incorrectly installed fuel burning devices that could emit carbon monoxide. And as we live now in better insulated homes, the problem could become worse, as any carbon monoxide leakage will not be vented quickly.

The CO problem will be around for a long time yet.

Useful link: www.carbon-monoxide-survivor.com

Carbon Monoxide Issue to be Addressed in Coronation Street

Producers of Coronation Street have been taking advice from the Gas Safe Register about how to realistically portray  the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. The story line of character Fiz Brown being found in a coma due to carbon monoxide poisoning is due to be screened in December.

The show´s bosses want to ensure that this story line is as realistic as possible. They believe that thousands of their viewers may not be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and hope that this story will not only have them on the edge of their seats but that it will help to spread the awareness of the dangers of this silent killer.

Installing a carbon monoxide alarm could save your life. They are not expensive and easy to install. If you are unsure what carbon monoxide is or how it could affect you, visit this information site

Another tragic death due to carbon monoxide

This weekend the tragic death of a teenager occurred whilst she was camping with her family in Shropshire. The cause is thought to have been carbon monoxide poisoning. The other family members were found unconscious in the tent and taken to hospital.

The carbon monoxide poisoning is believed to have originated from the smouldering embers of a disposable BBQ, which was seen in the porch of their tent. Carbon monoxide can not be seen or smelt. It is paramount that in order to prevent tragic deaths like this, campers are made aware of the dangers of taking cooking equipment into tents for either cooking food or for warmth.

Camping in the UK is slowly changing, as the temperatures are remaining low longer and dropping at night. Anyone planning a camping holiday at this time of year should ensure that they have adequate bedding to keep warm at night and hat they have some form of outside cover to enable them to use BBQs and cookers a safe distance away from the tent, even when it is raining.

Taking a BBQ or cooker into a tent can cause the carbon monoxide to accumulate and linger even once the appliance has been removed. This can then render the occupants unconscious or even cause their death once they go to bed.

Our safety tips are simple: NEVER take a cooker or BBQ into your tent to cook food or as a source of warmth. ALWAYS cook a safe distance away from your tent to prevent any CO from being blown into your tent space.

Be aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning, such as headache, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and irregular heart rate. If you or any person in your tent has these symptoms, seek medical advice.

For more information about carbon monoxide visit www.carbonmonoxideinfo.co.uk

Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign 2011 launch

Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! is the national campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide and to encourage people to install an audible carbon monoxide alarm in their homes. Funding is received through Britain’s six major gas and electricity companies and is also supported by a range of organisations and charities, including Safelincs Ltd.

This year has seen distressing reports in the media of several campers tragically dying from carbon monoxide poisoning in their tents. These unnecessary deaths highlight that many people are still not aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide or how carbon monoxide poisoning can occur. It is hoped that through the Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign that these issues will be addressed and the number of deaths due to this poisonous gas will be reduced.  Shockingly, one in ten people do not even know that there are alarms available to detect carbon monoxide.

If you have any appliance in your home that uses a combustible fuel, such as a gas boiler, cooker or a wood burner, you could be at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you do not have an alarm you will have no way of knowing if carbon monoxide is being leaked into your home. This gas has no colour,  odour or taste and the common symptoms experienced are very similar to a cold or flue (headaches, tiredness, dizziness and nausea) and therefore go undiagnosed. If there is a high level of carbon monoxide present you may be rendered unconscious in minutes.

In support of the Be Alarmed! campaign we are offering a Kidde carbon monoxide alarm at a reduced price of £14.99 inc VAT. This alarm has a 5  year warranty, test button and is battery operated.

To view a selection of carbon monoxide alarms available at Safelincs go to https://www.safelincs.co.uk/battery-operated-carbon-monoxide-detectors/

Batteries in smoke alarm could have saved lives of father and daughter

A 33 year old man and his six year old daughter died due to a chip pan fire in a house that had a smoke alarm fitted but had no batteries in it.

In April this year the bodies of Mr Andrew Lineton and Kay-Leigh, his six year old daughter, were discovered in their home in Telford.  An inquest in to their deaths concluded that an unattended chip pan had caught fire in the kitchen. The smoke alarm that was fitted did not have any batteries in it and therefore no warning of the fire was given.

The chip pan fire burnt itself out and the deaths were caused due to carbon monoxide poisoning. As carbon monoxide causes drowsiness and leads to unconsciousness Mr Lineton and his daughter were unaware of the fire and unable to evacuate the house.

These tragic deaths could have been prevented. Ensure that you have a working smoke alarm fitted and that you test it regularly. Never remove batteries from an alarm, even if it is sending out an annoying chirp to alert you of the need to replace batteries. Only remove the batteries when you have fresh ones to replace them with.

To read the full story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-shropshire-15204778