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Gas Safety Trust raises awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning

The Carbon Monoxide Hotspot Report was recently launched by the Gas Safety Trust to highlight the areas most commonly affected by CO poisoning.

Coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the launch of the trust, the report shows that deaths attributed to CO poisoning have continued to reduce in recent years, but also highlights the fact that there is limited scope to record incidents so figures are likely to be inaccurate.

The trust’s report uses data from a number of sources, including the Downstream Incident Data Report (DIDR), compiled from results of investigations by gas suppliers. This does not include solid fuel and oil installation incidents.

Analysis of media reports between July 2009 and June 2010 has also been used, which includes both gas and non-gas related incidents.

Information is also drawn from an online survey of 3061 adults around the UK, asking about awareness of CO poisoning symptoms and advice received from the health service.

Professor Mary Berwell, Gas Safety Trust  chair, described the exercise conducted by French authorities in Paris and Versailles autopsies that now include CO testing automatically at post mortem.

“If this was included in UK post mortems, we believe the number of recorded deaths resulting from CO poisoning would increase considerably,” said Professor Berwell.

The report also highlights the dangers of low level CO poisoning, which it believes frequently goes undetected.

There are a number of reasons for this, including mis-diagnosis of symptoms by both medical staff and sufferers.

An effective solution to this would be the fitting of CO alarms, says the trust, currently only installed in 27 per cent of UK homes.

A significant factor in CO poisoning incidents was the lack of servicing of appliances, identified in 36 per cent of incidents as the main cause.

Only 52 per cent of those responding to the online survey stated that their gas appliances had been checked in the previous 12 months.

The Gas Safety Trust was established in 2005 as a registered charitable body, with the key objectives of working with industry and government to improve gas safety in the UK and reduce incidents of CO exposure.

More information is available at www.gas-safety-trust.org.uk