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CO Awareness Week celebrates decade of action

This year will see the 10th Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, starting on 16 November, organised by the Carbon Monoxide Awareness charity.

Following numerous recent surveys and announcements on the issue of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning – including problems with CO alarm compliance (H&V News, front page, 21 October 2015) and the latest Corgi HomePlan research findings – the message has taken on even more importance this year.

Worryingly, the Corgi research found that 8.4 million people in Britain have suffered CO poisoning or know someone who has. With 58% of homeowners failing to have their systems regularly serviced, the survey showed that 2.13 million homes are at risk of exposure to dangerous levels of CO.

Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week founder Lynn Griffiths is continuing her fight to raise awareness of both the immediate danger and the long-term effects of CO poisoning, which she has experienced first hand.

Ms Griffiths and her family were poisoned in their home over a period of many years because of a gas fire flue blocked with builders’ rubble.

Because of this experience, she continues to try to have the charity’s key Stage 2 and Stage 3 lessons adopted by schools.

“I believe many children have been affected by CO,” says Ms Griffiths. “I have families asking me all the time for help.”

She refers to the serious problems her son has experienced, who she says suffered “all through his school life because of CO”.

“He wasn’t given the support he should have because the school SENCO had no idea of what CO could really do,” she said.

“I believe CO incidents are rising faster than anyone in industry realises. Those being chronically exposed to CO may not know for years what’s been making them so ill, just like we didn’t.

She added: “Poverty is going to have a bigger part to play in the battle against carbon monoxide.”

One of the main issues preventing further action is lack of funding, she said, as government support was withdrawn in 2009.

Since then, the charity has survived on donations, which she hopes will increase following this year’s Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week.

Ms Griffiths reports that pledges had been made by chimney sweeps, including an offer from Neil Commell of Waltham Black Chimney Sweeping in Bishops Waltham to donate £5 from every chimney he sweeps during the week.

Mr Commell has also provided the Southampton Daily Echo with information in an attempt to gain more coverage for the awareness-raising week.

Further support has been pledged by Glen Horscroft from the Chimney Sweeps Academy.

Another supporter of CO Awareness Week is OFTEC, which is encouraging the fitting of CO detectors and emphasising that all boilers should be regularly serviced by qualified engineers.

The association is also directing people to to find out more about CO poisoning and its effects.

OFTEC’s Malcolm Farrow said: “We actively encourage households to install a CO alarm, typically only costing around £15, and we are pleased to support Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week again this year as part of this activity.”

Additional promotion is being provided by Ideal Boilers customer service director Chris Jessop, who is encouraging installers to use the key messages of CO Awareness Week when discussing service and maintenance with customers.

“There are a number of ways installers can remind their customers how to stay safe in addition to correct installation and servicing of boilers, including installing CO alarms,” he said.

“New government legislation that came into effect on 1 October means that landlords must ensure CO alarms are installed in every room that contains a solid fuel-burning combustion appliance.”

Ms Griffiths welcomed the support she has received from the chimney sweeps, but said that extra funding is urgently required to continue the task of educating everyone about the dangers of CO and its long-term effects.

Those wishing to make donations can do so at