Carbon Monoxide costs England and Wales up to £178 million every year, and leads to around 40 deaths, 200 hospitalisations and 4,000 accident and emergency visits. Furthermore, many more people are injured as a result of relatively low levels of exposure, and the true number of people who have been injured by the deadly gas is unknown but likely massive.
Typically, carbon monoxide is created through incomplete combustion. In homes, this can be due to boiler breakdowns, gas appliances that have not been regularly serviced, improperly-fitted appliances, or the accidental blocking of vents and flues.
To deal with this crisis, the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCMG) has conducted a lengthy inquiry into how to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, and its report‘Carbon Monoxide: From Awareness to Action‘ has now been finalised. This report explained that although progress has been made in preventing carbon monoxide poisoning, the country “must never be complacent”, and that there is a “long way to go” if the UK is to deal with the problem.
So what did the report recommend?
- The Department for Communities and Local Government should hire someone full-time to coordinate activity relating to carbon monoxide and to provide the Cross Government Group on Gas Safety and CO Awareness with a dedicated worker to promote coordination on resources and activity and to lead the group.
- This cross-government group should resource and develop a data strategy for carbon monoxide incidents.
- Data on CO incidents should be shared with relevant bodies through a centralised hub.
- Fire and Rescue Services should coordinate data gathering and make this data available to public health professionals, researchers and other relevant bodies, and should be statutorily obliged to include CO safety in their work.
- A single campaign, with branded messaging and materials, should be created. This campaign should be freely available through a centralised portal.
- Social housing providers should be legally required to fit CO alarms wherever fuel-burning appliances are installed, and should replace these appliances with safer models in certain situations.
- Gas Safety regulations should introduce gas appliance servicing rules, so the same service date can be used every year.
- Ofgem should include requirements for energy suppliers to install carbon monoxide alarms in vulnerable customers’ homes through its Consumer Vulnerability Strategy.
- A new boiler replacement scheme should be created.
- The government should incorporate research into air-tightness and the risks this poses into the Green Deal.
- Carbon monoxide alarms should be provided in Home Care Plans that offer central heating system services and maintenance.
- Carbon monoxide alarm installation instructions should be simplified.
- The efficacy of the tools used by healthcare professionals when approaching carbon monoxide incidents should be reviewed.
- Campsites should be required to provide isolated and clearly-marked locations for the use and disposal of barbecues.
- Recreational parks should provide carbon monoxide alarms for loan or purchase.
- Carbon monoxide alarms should inform people what they should do should the alarm sound.
- A study into low levels of carbon monoxide exposure in recreational and leisure environments should be undertaken.
- Small fishing vessel regulations should be amended to oblige vessels to be fitted with carbon monoxide alarms.
- Festival organisers should be obliged to ensure their staff are provided with information about carbon monoxide.