Combat the silent killer with CO Awareness Week


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Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week has begun and will run until Monday October 3rd.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a poisonous, colourless, odourless gas that is capable of killing someone within three minutes, which has earned it the nickname “the silent killer”. Each year carbon monoxide poisoning causes illness in many people, and on average it kills six people annually.

The gas is produced when carbon-based fuel does not have enough oxygen to burn completely, and upon being inhaled into the body it combines with the blood and prevents it from absorbing oxygen. Exposure to the gas over time can cause illness and eventually lead to death.

Every year over 50,000 solid fuel stoves and oil boilers are installed in Irish homes. But many of these households remain unaware of the risk of exposure to the substance via fossil fuels in the home.

Carbon Monoxide poisoning has symptons similar to a cold or flu such as headaches, dizziness, chest pains, diarrhoea and general lethargy. Anyone who suspects that they or others are experiencing these symptoms should have their doctor check them for Carbon Monoxide poisoning. They are also advised to immediately ventilate the area by opening the windows and doors, and to stop using fuel burning appliances and not re-use them until they have been checked by a qualified service technician.

By spreading the word, the public can ensure the safety of their families and friends. There are seven steps that can be taken to prevent exposure to Carbon Monoxide:

  1. Make sure all appliances are installed and serviced annually by a qualified service technician for your fuel type.
  2. Sweep chimneys regularly and make sure flues are kept clear.
  3. Keep air vents clear.
  4. Ensure rooms containing heating or cooking appliances are properly ventilated.
  5. Use appliances only for the purpose for which they were designed e.g. never use a patio heater or BBQ indoors or under cover.
  6. Never run engines in enclosed spaces.
  7. Install an audible CO alarm. Make sure the alarm complies with European Standard EN 50291, carries a CE mark, has an end of life indicator and carries an independent certification mark such as a Kitemark. The alarms should always be installed as per manufacturers’ instructions and it is possible that more than one alarm may be needed to provide adequate protection.

The week is supported by organisations across public health and safety bodies including the Commission for Energy Regulation, Gas Networks Ireland, the Register of Gas Installers of Ireland, the Oil Firing Technical Association, the National Standards Authority of Ireland, the Health Service Executive, the Health and Safety Authority, the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland, the National Irish Safety Organisation, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health and the Chief Fire Officers’ Association.

By Kevin Carney