Carbon monoxide: the silent killer
Carbon monoxide is known as the “silent killer” because you cannot see, hear, smell or taste it. It results from the burning of gas and other fuels, including wood, coal and oil. It can build up to dangerous levels if a fuel-burning appliance is incorrectly fitted, badly repaired or poorly maintained, or if flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.
To reduce the risk of CO poisoning:
- For gas appliances, use an engineer registered through Gas Safe Register for installation and annual services. Always check that an engineer’s capabilities, which are listed on the back of his or her identity card, include the job you want doing. If you live in rented property, ask your landlord to show you the property’s gas safety certificate
- Consult your fuel supplier or professional heating engineer for the regular servicing of other fuel-burning appliances
- Rooms should be well ventilated and chimneys or flues swept regularly
- Fit an audible CO alarm, but remember this should be in addition to the other actions
- Know the signs of CO poisoning, which include: in your family (particularly children and the elderly, and maybe even your pets) - prolonged flu-like symptoms; gas appliances burning with orange, instead of blue, flames; sooty stains on or near appliances; excessive condensation in the room; and coal or wood fires that burn slowly or go out.
Carbon monoxide and you
On August 3, 2010, Neil McFerran and Aaron Davidson, both 18, died from carbon monoxide poisoning at a holiday flat in Castlerock, Co Derry.
The teenagers, from Newtownabbey, had been spending the weekend at the seaside village with their friend Matthew Gaw, also 18, as they waited for their exam results.
Matthew also suffered the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning and spent time in hospital, but survived.
A faulty liquid petroleum gas appliance was found in the holiday flat.
RoSPA responded to many questions about gas safety in the weeks after the teenagers’ deaths.
Neil and Aaron’s families, who are now working tirelessly to promote the dangers of carbon monoxide, were among those to contact RoSPA to seek advice, information and support.
The families have launched the Gis A Hug Foundation, which they are in the process of establishing as a charity, to take forward their campaign and raise awareness of the importance of having fuel burning appliances serviced annually and the fitting of audible carbon monoxide alarms in homes and holiday accommodation.
See www.gisahugfoundation.co.uk for details.
The families kindly agreed to work with RoSPA to produce this short film, which contains their personal accounts of the tragedy that claimed the lives of Neil and Aaron.
The film raises awareness of the fact that carbon monoxide kills. It also outlines some of the steps that can be taken to prevent future tragedies.
In order to play this video clip you will need a copy of the Adobe Flash Player installed on your machine. This is freely available to download here.
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