One of my photos

Carbon Monoxide

October 28th, 2006 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 4 Comments · Politics

Perhaps the scariest thing about the two boys who died on holiday in Greece is that they were doing nothing that any of us has not done.

They were not taking part in any sort of risky activity like paragliding or white water rafting. They were just taking a family holiday in a reputable, established hotel, organised by one of the biggest tour operators in the UK, subject to all the myriad health and safety rules. What more could their parents have done?

Actually there is something they could have done – they could have taken a carbon monoxide alarm. This is not a criticism of the parents at all: how many of us have ever thought of taking a carbon monoxide alarm on holiday? I know I haven’t, and I have stayed at that very hotel in Corfu twice before, but I might invest in one before going away again. I might even have one for the house. Apparently they can only cost about twenty quid which is not a lot for peace of mind and could potentially save your life.

South Edinburgh MP, Nigel Griffiths, has been campaigning on this issue for some time. Those of us in housing association or council houses have our boilers checked every year as one of the terms of tenancy. House owners should be doing the same thing, but this is one of those little corners that it can be tempting to cut. (Approximately 30% do not bother) Anyone in privately rented accommodation is dependent on their landlord not trying to cut costs on the fitting or maintenence of heating systems – and that is worrying. Not all landlords are despicable, penny-pinching types, but I think we have all met at least one who is.

So perhaps that, instead, is the scariest thing about the story of the two boys is that it could so easily happen to any of us in our own homes. In the ten years between 1989 and 1998 there were 533 deaths from CO poisoning in the UK. 30% of these deaths were caused by faulty appliances. (Source: Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service)

Thats about 533 deaths more than have been linked to mobile phone masts, and yet look at the fuss about them. It is a sobering thought that at any mass protest about a mobile phone mast, statistically is is probably that about 30% of the protesters have not bothered getting their heating system checked out. Yet again our instinctive risk analysis is all wrong.

As Jon Trickett, MP and founder of the all-party parliamentary group on gas safety, says “Deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning are all the more tragic because they are entirely preventable.” It could be argued that CO detectors are more useful than smoke detectors – we could detect smoke ourselves, but carbon monoxide is invisible and has no smell. Carbon monoxide detectors don’t get set off by cooking a full English breakfast either. A nice little detector would make a good Christmas present for the family I think.

I wasn’t aware of all this before today, and not aware of Nigel Griffiths or Jon Trickett, but I am now. They provide a good example of the sort of day-to-day constructive work most MPs do outside the Westminster Village spotlight.

Tags: ··

4 Comments so far ↓

  • Richard

    You’re right, Skuds, Carbon Monoxide alarms should be fitted along with Smoke alarms – in every home (and hotel).

    Should they be compulsory like seat belts and car insurance ?

    I’m surprised the power companies have not been told to ‘pull their finger out’ before now.

  • Jane Skudder

    Without wanting to sound like an advert for British Gas we do use their 3 star service or whatever it is called and have them service the boiler and gas fire every year. When the last service was done the engineer did speak to me about a CO detector and I was happy to get one there and then. (I then found we already had one up too high for me to see in the kitchen – but that’s just a sign of my advancing age…) I think British Gas, and probably other suppliers do try to inform us about the CO detectors, but we just throw it all out with the rest of the junk mail. Maybe our part of the deal is to check which of the junk mail really is junk?

  • Richard

    We have the 3 star gas thing too, Jane, and the chap also told us about the CM alarm. We, like you, said ‘yes please, fit it’ – and he did so.

    I just now feel that it should be insisted upon a little more…

  • Skuds

    Does that mean you now have a spare J?

    I read in the paper today that about 50 people die in their own homes every year a a result of accidental CO poisoning.

    How many things kill fewer people in the UK every year but cause a greater fuss?