Gas safety concern

Carbon monoxide ignorance highlighted by new research

Millions of householders are unprotected from carbon monoxide (CO) leaks in their home and are unaware of the signs of carbon monoxide leaks or even poisoning, according to the latest research1 from the AA's Home Emergency Response as part of its State of the Nation's Homes series of reports.

The findings reveal that only one in three British adults (34%) has a carbon monoxide monitor installed that they have checked in the last 12 months, leaving two thirds (66%) potentially unprotected from carbon monoxide poisoning in their homes.

Worryingly, many householders don't seem to be aware of many of the possible signs2 of a carbon monoxide leak in their home, with over a quarter (27%) unaware of the main symptoms of CO poisoning such as headaches, nausea and aching limbs which are often confused with the flu. CO poisoning can also lead to an individual and pets becoming unconscious and in some cases it may prove fatal.

Lack of awareness

Just 14 per cent of adults realise that dark staining around or on appliances can indicate a CO leak and only 17 per cent are aware that a lazy orange flame showing on their cooker means it is not burning correctly and could lead to the same problem.

Alarmingly, 16 per cent believe that a smell of gas signifies carbon monoxide is present.

We would urge all homeowners to get their appliances serviced before the winter kicks in

Tom Stringer, AA Home Emergency Response

Tom Stringer, head of the AA's Home Emergency Response Service said: "The biggest issue with carbon monoxide is that you can't smell it, see it or taste it which is why it's often referred to as the "silent killer". If you can smell gas, it's more likely you have a gas leak but if you suspect a gas or carbon monoxide leak, you should call the national gas emergency line on 0800 111 999."

As the summer draws to a close and the heating is switched on, the AA is reminding people to ensure their boiler is regularly serviced by a Gas Safe engineer, making sure it's working properly, safely and efficiently.

Tom Stringer continued: "Whilst all fossil fuel burning appliances can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, one of the main sources is faulty gas appliances such as boilers3 and we would urge all homeowners to get their appliances serviced before the winter kicks in.

In times when many household budgets are squeezed it can be tempting to cut back on things like boiler services. However, this could be a real false economy in the long run and problems can easily escalate from an annoyance to an emergency.

Getting a service on your boiler is like getting your car serviced – it's something we use every day and can't expect it to run properly if it's not maintained.

Householders should also fit a CO detector that conforms to the relevant British Standard and as with any detector, they should be regularly checked to maintain their effectiveness."

Warning for renters

Tenants should make sure that they ask to see the safety certificate for the gas appliances in the property – that way they will know they have been checked in the last twelve months

Tom Stringer, AA Home Emergency Response

Tom Stringer added: "Tenants should make sure that they ask to see the safety certificate for the gas appliances in the property – that way they will know they have been checked in the last twelve months."

The AA urges everyone to have a carbon monoxide detector in their home which costs around £20 and should conform to EN50291. Those that sound an alarm upon detecting CO are recommended in case a leak results in CO building up during the night.

The research also provides a stark warning for renters as it shows that almost two thirds of people (62%) renting a property didn't ask to see their landlord's gas safety certificate when they moved in.

Indeed, according to the Gas Safety Trust private tenants are at 50 per cent greater risk of suffering a carbon monoxide incident than owner/occupier or social landlords3.


18th September 2012

1 Research was carried out by ICM amongst a GB representative sample of 2,029 adults between 7th and 9th September 2012

2 Possible signs of a carbon monoxide leak in the home from Gas Safe Register

3 Carbon Monoxide Trends Report 1996 to 2010 – Gas Safety Trust