More than half of the British population are 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 – 31 million in England, 2.4 million in Scotland and 1.6 million in Wales.
These findings have been published the day before the installation of carbon monoxide alarms becomes compulsory in Scotland when a fuel-burning appliance is fitted.
Lending their support to the campaign are Catherine McFerran and Katrina Davidson, from Newtownabbey in Northern Ireland, who lost their 18-year-old sons, Neil and Aaron, in 2010 to carbon monoxide poisoning while staying at a holiday apartment.
“Since our sons were cruelly taken from us by this silent killer, we have campaigned to try to prevent similar tragedies, they said in a joint statement.
“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, audible 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.
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.”