1.4M at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning

Many households still have no alarm
  • Deborah Condon

Some 1.4 million people in Ireland are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning because they do not have a carbon monoxide alarm, new research has found.

Furthermore, even some of those with an alarm are ignoring potential danger by pulling the batteries out or putting the alarm outside rather than taking action when it goes off.

The findings were released to coincide with Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, which runs from September 25 to October 1.

Carbon monoxide is often known as a ‘silent killer' because it is a colourless and odourless gas, making it very difficult for households to detect. At high levels, it can kill in as little as three minutes.

An average of six people die every year in Ireland as a result of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, and even at low levels, it can cause serious illness. It can be caused by any fossil fuel that burns including oil, gas, peat turf, wood, petrol, diesel and coal.

The research found that the number of households with a carbon monoxide alarm is on the increase, with 59% of households having one now compared to 53% in 2016. However, 1.4 million people still live in households without an alarm.

The research also found that one in three people has not had their boiler serviced within the last year, putting them at an increased risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. This was highest in Connacht.

A further one in six has blocked a vent to keep heat in and keep draughts out, which again increases the risk of poisoning, while 29% with solid fuel have not had their chimney swept in the past year.

Meanwhile 7% of those with alarms experienced it going off at least once in the past year - that is around 140,000 people. However, one-third of these pulled the batteries out or put the alarm outside rather than taking action.

There are a number of simple ways to protect you and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning:
-Install an alarm
-Get fuel burning appliances serviced annually by a registered technician
-Ensure your home has adequate ventilation. Do not block vents
-Use appliances only for the purpose they were designed, e.g. never use a BBQ indoors or undercover
-Sweep chimneys regularly.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include headaches, nausea, chest pains, dizziness, diarrhoea or general lethargy.

"This public safety campaign is all about educating the general public on the dangers associated with carbon monoxide, the colourless, odourless deadly gas. There are a number of simple, preventative measures that can be taken to prevent against the gas, and we hope that through this safety campaign, people will learn how to protect themselves and their loved ones," commented Ann McGarry, director for energy safety at the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).

Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week is a public health safety initiative supported by organisations throughout the energy sector, along with related industries, such as CER, the Health and Safety Authority and Gas Networks Ireland. For more information on Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, click here


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