Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning is such a serious issue that it forms part of UK health and safety law. Legislation such as the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 exist in part to protect the public from CO, such as through their requirements for landlords to arrange annual gas appliance services and to ensure gas boilers in their premises are safe for people to use. The UK has also played host to some high-profile CO safety campaigns, including Gas Safety Week and Dominic’s Day.
Therefore, it is shocking to learn that a new poll carried out on behalf of the Gas Safety Trust has found the British public have a very low understanding of the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning. The OnePoll research revealed that only 13% of the 2, 000 people polled could recognise the characteristics and symptoms of CO poisoning, namely:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Breathing difficulties
The study also revealed that around more than one-third of homeowners have not had their gas boiler serviced in the last year, with around 25% of people in rented accommodation uncertain if their gas appliances had been serviced or checked for safety.
People under the age of 25 appear to be at a higher risk of CO poisoning than the general public, with the research showing that this group were the least likely to be able to identify the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Furthermore, less than one-third of under-25s said they owned an audible CO alarm, with many of those who said they did likely to be mistaken.
The Department of Health estimates that CO poisoning kills around 40 people every year, and while public health initiatives in the last few decades have done a lot to improve the public’s awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide, the Gas Safety Trust’s research shows that there is still a lot that needs to be done, with public awareness of CO poisoning still very low in some instances.
Although gas appliance breakdowns and maintenance problems still lead to a number of cases of carbon monoxide poisoning every year, chair of the organisation Chris Bielby noted that there appears to be an increasing number of deaths caused by the use of generators and barbecues in enclosed areas with poor ventilation.
He said his organisation is “disappointed” by the lack of CO knowledge held by the general public, stating it is “essential” for people to fit audible CO alarms in their homes and to have their gas appliances checked by Gas Safe-registered engineers every year.
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