Week in Westminster: Carbon monoxide awareness

Last week I attended an event in Parliament to learn more about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, as part of the ‘Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed!’ campaign.

At the event I had the opportunity to meet with a number of people who had lost members of their families or suffered themselves from carbon monoxide poisoning. Such a tragedy occurred only too recently in Shropshire, when 14 year old Hannah Thomas-Jones sadly lost her life due to carbon monoxide poisoning at a local campsite in my constituency.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas produced when fuels such as gas, oil, charcoal, coal and wood do not burn completely. The most common cause of this is when an appliance, such as a boiler or cooker, is installed incorrectly or poorly maintained. Carbon monoxide can also build up when flues, chimneys or vents are blocked, or when outdoor cooking appliances like barbecues are used indoors or in tents.

When this takes place without adequate ventilation carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal, causing an estimated 40 deaths every year. But when not fatal, carbon monoxide poisoning can still have a permanent damaging effect on health, with an estimated 4000 people a year treated for CO gas poisoning. Numbers of those suffering without diagnosis are thought to be much higher.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are often similar to food poisoning or flu, including headaches, nausea, stomach pains but it does not cause a high temperature. If inhaled for long periods CO gas can cause loss of vision, balance or memory loss, seizures and loss of consciousness. However, even if we are aware of the symptoms, it can be difficult to recognise carbon monoxide poisoning.

An audible carbon monoxide alarm can be the difference between life and death in these situations. They can be bought for about £15 from DYI stores, some supermarkets or direct from energy suppliers. They work just like a smoke alarm and take only a few minutes to fit.

While we are generally alert to the fire risks, many people are much less aware of the danger from carbon monoxide gas. Too many people are dying or suffering needlessly from carbon monoxide poisoning, so I am urging every resident in South Shropshire to make sure they and their loved ones are protected by installing an audible carbon monoxide alarm. For more information on symptoms, prevention and what to do in an emergency, please visit www.co-bealarmed.co.uk


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