It is dubbed the silent killer and has claimed 50 accidental deaths and 4,000 A & E attendances in England yet still people do not do enough to protect themselves from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
Incidents arising from CO as a result of using all fossil fuels can prove deadly and yet still only a fraction of us protect ourselves and our families.
According to statistics 10 people died from gas related incidents in the UK last year and 330 were hospitalised.*
At least one death a year happens in the West Midlands * yet as few as only twelve per cent of homes own an inexpensive but potentially life-saving carbon monoxide alarm.
With winter drawing in and many of us firing up our heating for the first time in months energy experts are warning of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning which causes varying symptoms from nausea and drowsiness to, in the most extreme cases, brain damage and death.
Phil Burnett, an Engagement Manager with Solihull-based Energy & Utility Skills (EU Skills), said with Christmas fast approaching there was no better time to invest in one of the inexpensive alarms which warn of the very first traces of the deadly gas.
He said: "Carbon monoxide can be produced by all fossil fuels when appliances are incorrectly fitted or poorly maintained, but with the majority of home central heating systems being gas fired, and with some 18 million homes using gas as their priority fuel, the gas industry has the reduction of instances of carbon monoxide poisoning high on the agenda."
Phil said there was no need however for any loss of life if people had their gas appliances and heating systems serviced regularly by a Gas Safe registered engineer and that this was the single most important factor in protecting life. Additionally, investing in a carbon monoxide alarm would provide a second level of defence as an early warning of any CO problem that may exist or develop. "An alarm is no substitute for proper maintenance but it could detect CO in your home and potentially save a life" said Phil "A carbon monoxide alarm might not be top of everyone's Christmas list but they only cost between £10 and £20 and there is no better present you can buy because it really does protect those that you love."
Phil said concerns about carbon monoxide poisoning are supported by the All-Party Parliamentary Gas Safety Group (APPGSG) to raise the issue in the House of Commons.
A recent APPGSG inquiry, chaired by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, has produced a report with 17 recommendations and this is now being followed up by the APPGSG. EU Skills were part of the inquiry steering group and continue to work with others to promote CO Awareness to Industry and consumers.
Phil said "Gas engineers know the problems that blocked chimneys and inadequate ventilation can cause; it is essential that consumers and others are better informed about CO and how to avoid any problems caused by poor combustion.
"There are currently around 127,000 gas safe registered engineers and even if we could start with them and recommend they get their families to buy an alarm it would be a start."
Phil added: "Seventy per cent of homes now have a smoke alarm and yet only twelve per cent have a CO alarm. "We need to promote these alarms which are cheap, manufactured to a European Quality Standard (EN50291) and often come with a lifetime guaranteed battery. "People will be wondering what Santa brings down their chimney this Christmas and I hope it will be a carbon monoxide alarm. It could be a matter of life and death."
* (Source: HSE Gas Safety Statistics 09/10). According to Gas Safe statistics
** According to research by the University of Birmingham Medical Scholl 2010.
For further media information please contact the Marketing & Communications team at Energy & Utility Skills on 0845 077 7012 or email@example.com
NOTES FOR EDITORS
About Energy & Utility Skills
Energy & Utility Skills (EU Skills) is the Sector Skills Council (SSC) for the gas, power, waste management and water industries, licensed by Government and working under the guidance of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES). Employer-led, our purpose is to ensure that our industries have the skills they need now and in the future.
The energy and utilities sector is fundamental to the success of the UK economy and is crucial to the way modern society functions. It is critical to facilitate an adequate supply of competent people to develop, maintain and enhance the sector.
A skilled workforce is vital for meeting the challenges of an increasingly competitive global economy and particularly during this tough economic climate, where skills are the key lever for successful competition.
EU Skills commitment is to raise employer engagement, demand and investment in skills, to ensure that we have authoritative labour market information for all of our industries and to develop National Occupational Standards (NOS) to ensure that qualifications meet employer needs.
EU Skills is part of the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils, comprising 25 licensed UK SSCs. Employer-driven, together these SSCs articulate the voice of the employers of around 90% of the UKs workforce on skills issues.
Energy & Utility Skills was awarded the top accolade of being named "Outstanding" by a recent audit of the National Audit Office (July 2009).
For further information about EU Skills please visit www.euskills.co.uk