Used around the world for a variety of reasons including meat production, medicine, chemical engineering and laser production, the silent killer kills over 40 people annually and hospitalises around 2000.
Carbon monoxide (or CO) is an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas which is lethal to humans. Breathing it in can kill.
How does carbon monoxide kill?
The main causes of carbon monoxide poisoning are damaged or poorly ventilated household appliances such as cookers, boilers and heaters. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning can occur at any time, in any home and in any enclosed space.
A number of recent high-profile deaths from CO poisoning has increased the need for more awareness of something which is highly preventable. An elderly couple from Eastbourne died in 2014 after lighting a barbecue inside their home to keep warm during a power cut while two children died in 2006 while on holiday in Corfu, caused by a faulty gas boiler.
In fact, children and the elderly are more susceptible to being affected by CO poisoning as their bodies are less able to withstand the effects. Some figures suggest that half of those killed are under 12 or over 60.
The effects of CO poisoning are similar to those of flu so if your parent’s symptoms get better away from home, the pets fall suddenly ill, or more than one person in the home is affected, get them to switch the gas off, open all doors and windows, leave the premises and visit the doctor or urgent care center.
What Can The Elderly Do To Ensure They Stay Safe?
In the current economic climate, it may be difficult to fathom spending money on servicing your appliances. But any appliances that burn fuel should be checked by a registered and qualified engineer.
The Gas Safe Register (UK) is the only official list of gas engineers who are legally allowed to work on gas appliances such as the boiler, cooker or gas fire. All of these engineers carry a Gas Safe ID card – don’t be afraid to ask to see it. Don’t let anybody work on gas appliances without one.
Blackouts or power cuts are hard to cope with in any weather, but particularly the colder months. Don’t be fooled into thinking bringing a barbecue or old heater into the home is safe. Many energy companies now offer hot plates and brand new portable heaters to use for instances such as this and they give priority to the elderly so get in contact with the company and explain the situation.
Additionally, there are a number of companies which support older people to live independently in their homes. They provide and fit a range of safety and security products, including carbon monoxide detectors. The fitters will assess what is needed in each home and recommend necessary equipment. Check with the council or local authority to see what options are available in the area.
In some areas, life-saving carbon monoxide alarms are given to vulnerable and elderly people so contact your local council to see if your parents qualify. As well as this, gas supplies carry out free gas safety checks to some older people. Contact the company your parents pay the gas bills to and they could send somebody over if:
- They get a Winter Fuel Allowance.
- They have had gas work done in the last 6 months. If so, you can ask for a free safety inspection from the Gas Safe Register.
- If they rent their home, the landlord must have the appliances checked once a year by law. Contact the landlord or the Health and Safety Executive to complain if they fail to comply with gas safety requirements.
Most importantly, ensure your parents have a carbon monoxide detectors The alarm will sound if it detects a leak in the property but remember that these alarms need to be changed every five to seven years. CO detectors should not be a substitute for maintaining household appliances.
For more information on the dangers of carbon monoxide, please visit www.thesilentkiller.co.uk.
Post by guest author Anna Gilespie.