Households in the West Midlands need to be more vigilant against the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning as a survey reveals two thirds of people have not installed a CO alarm to protect themselves, suggesting the very real threat is not being taken seriously.

The warning comes as part of this year’s Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month (November 2018), a national campaign highlighting the risks of CO poisoning which kills more than 50 people and hospitalises over 4,000 every year.

CO is produced when carbon fuels don’t burn properly and any type of heating system where combustion takes place can potentially give off the odourless, colourless gas. CO poisoning can result in severe long-term health problems, or even death, with younger and older people most at risk. Key symptoms to watch out for are tiredness, dizziness and headaches.

In support of the campaign, OFTEC, the UK trade association for the oil heating industry, is promoting the simple ABC safety checklist which advises households in the West Midlands of the key steps they should take to reduce the risk:

  • Alarm – purchase a CO alarm (usually around £20) for every room which has a fuel burning appliance e.g. boiler, woodburner, open fire etc. It is mandatory for private landlords to provide an alarm in rented properties with a solid fuel appliance
  • Batteries – regularly ensure all the alarms are functional by holding the ‘test’ button
  • Check – have your boiler serviced at least one a year by an OFTEC (for oil or solid fuel) or GasSafe (for mains gas) registered technician to check it is working correctly

If the event of a CO alarm going off, the advice is to open the windows and leave the room immediately. You should then contact OFTEC or GasSafe and, if you experience any symptoms of CO poisoning, call 999.

Malcolm Farrow, from OFTEC said: “Carbon monoxide poisoning can have a devasting impact on the lives of the people it affects so the lack of awareness is particularly worrying with many households still oblivious to the dangers. We wouldn’t think twice about having smoke alarms installed and we should take the same approach with CO alarms.

“By supporting Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month we hope to bring more attention to this issue which for too long has been ignored. I would also urge others to get involved and help spread the important safety messages.”