More than half the British population is at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning because they do not have an alarm in their home to detect the potentially fatal gas, according to new research.
The study, conducted by the Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed campaign in August this year, found 35 million Britons to be at risk – 31m in England, 2.4m in Scotland and 1.6m in Wales.
Publication of the findings coincides with a ruling in Scotland that from today it is compulsory to have carbon monoxide alarms installed when a fuel-burning appliance is fitted.
Lending their support to the campaign are Katrina Davidson and Catherine McFerran from Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland, who lost their 18-year-old sons, Aaron and Neil respectively, in 2010 to carbon monoxide poisoning while staying at a holiday apartment.
“Since our sons were taken from us by this silent killer, we have campaigned to try to prevent similar tragedies,” they said.
“Carbon monoxide alarms are now compulsory for all new homes in Northern Ireland and when new appliances are installed in Scotland, but many people in older homes or in the rest of the UK may still be at risk.
“Make sure you and your loved ones are protected, make sure you have a working carbon monoxide alarm in your home. It is not a risk worth taking.”
Carbon monoxide is known as a silent killer because it has no smell, colour or taste and can be produced by a faulty or poorly ventilated fuel-burning appliance such as a boiler, fire or cooker.
An alarm that makes a sound when the gas is detected is the only way to ensure protection, the Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed campaign group have said.
Dr Rob Hicks, GP and medical commentator, said: “At high levels, carbon monoxide can kill you in a matter of minutes.
“At lower levels, it can cause a range of serious and long-term health problems. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are very hard to recognise, even for doctors, as they are similar to many common illnesses like flu and food poisoning.
“This makes it very easy to miss the warning signs, with life-threatening consequences. Most people wouldn’t dream of not having a smoke alarm – it should be the same with carbon monoxide alarms.”
Some 44 per cent of those without a carbon monoxide alarm said they did not have one because they have a smoke alarm.
Researchers say this suggests these people do not realise a smoke alarm does not detect carbon monoxide.