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Waking-up to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning could save your ...
Waking-up to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning could save your

life, Kim Howells, consumer affairs minister has announced after

shock statistics revealed that up to 60 per cent of people are not

fully aware the dangers that CO can pose.

As people start turning on their heating and students return to

university, a MORI survey published today provides a timely reminder

of the dangers of CO poisoning. The survey also gives a stark warning

that people who are not aware of the dangers of CO are putting not

only themselves, but also their families at risk if they do not take

the issue of CO poisoning seriously.

Consumer affairs minister Kim Howells said:

'Carbon Monoxide is an indiscriminate killer. It can strike down the

rich or poor, those in rented accomodation or home- owners. The best

way people can avoid becoming a statistic of CO poisoning is to

become aware of the dangers. This study shows an alarming lack of


'I am staggered that so many people still don't know all the facts

about Carbon Monoxide. Fifty people are killed every year from the

effects of CO poisoning from faulty heating systems because they are

not aware of a few simple facts. All of these deaths are avoidable. I

am determined to make more people wake-up to these dangers.'

The main findings of the MORI poll reveal:

* about 60% of those surveyed had no idea that coal fires can produce

carbon monoxide and kill, when chimneys arenot swept. They think

that CO poisoning is an accident that can not happen if you have a

coal fire;

* about 60% of those with coal fires have not had their chimneys

swept for four years or more, putting themselves and their families

at risk;

* most consumers still think that home owners are less at risk than

those in rented accomodation and are shocked to find out that about

70% of deaths are in privately owned homes;

* One third of those surveyed still do not have their gas boilers

checked for safety every year.

Dr Howells added:

'I am launching a new campaign to heighten awareness of the dangers

of CO poisoning, and also fill in the gaps of knowledge for those

who know little or nothing at all about this killer. I will do this

in a number of ways:

* a brand new Roadshow will visit the worst affected areas of the

country in the new year and will give a full range of hints and tips

on keeping safe from carbon monoxide;

* millions of warning messages on fuel bills during the winter months;

* information leaflets in GP's surgeries up and down the country

throughout the winter months;

* television adverts running throughout autumn and winter;

I will be writing to the chairman of the National Union of Students

asking them to support our safety drive and help inform students of

this danger which so often affects them.

My department is also working closely with the Health and Safety

Executive's Fundamental Review of Gas Safety which is designed to

bring about reductions in gas-related carbon monoxide fatalities.'


1. The DTI's Consumer White Paper published on 22 July 1999

highlights the importance of co-ordinated safety awareness campaigns.

2. For further safety information contact:

Gas - Health and Safety Executive Gas Safety Advice Line,

0800 300 363;

Health and Safety Executive Gas Safety home page -;

Solid Fuel (coal and wood) - Solid Fuel Association, 0800 600 000;

Oil - Oil Firing Technical Association for the Petroleum Industry,

01737 373311.

3. Close collaboration with the gas industry has meant this

there is a safety message printed on millions of gas bills. The

message reads: 'Government consumer safety warning. Carbon Monoxide

poisoning can kill. Get your appliances checked every year. Keep your

family safe.'

4. Copies of the safety leaflet will also be in GPs' surgeries

throughout the autumn and winter.

5. A discussion document will be published by the HSE in the

autumn as part of the Fundamental Review of Gas Safety. This will

include options for change relating to the current health and safety

regime for the installation and use of gas.

6. The British Gas autumn campaign will continue to stress the

need for maintaining appliances with the publication of a new leaflet

on CO. The campaign will also concentrate on the respective legal

duties and rights of landlords and tenants. This will include a TV

advert on landlords Gas Safety Certificate aimed at both landlords

and tenants, a brochure will also be available. Added to this all

service engineers will carry a supply of leaflets about the added

protection CO detectors afford. A new page will soon be added to the

British Gas website ( offering advice on CO safety.

7. A chimney that has previously been used for another fuel

should be swept before a gas fire or boiler is fitted to it. It is

not necessary to sweep the chimney housing a gas fire every year. The

gas appliance should be maintained and checked for safety once a year

by a CORGI (Council for Registered Gas Installers) registered gas

installer in accordance with the manufacturers instructions. The

service will include a check on the chimney.

8. The research report and the CO warning leaflet is available

from: DTI Publications Orderline, ADMAIL 528, London SW1W 8YT. Orders

can be faxed through on 0870 1502333.

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