Published January 2022
REPORT OF THE YEAR 2021 – the 27th anniversary of CO-Gas Safety
During 2021, despite Covid, we have continued working on the charity’s main aims of reducing deaths and injuries from unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) by raising awareness of the dangers and testing indoor air for CO. These were recommended by the Health & Safety Commission in 2000 but not implemented. In our opinion they are still much needed.
We have also continued to try to help people exposed to CO & the families of those who have died.
Our data work in collecting, collating and publishing unintentional CO deaths from all carbon based fuels has also continued & is ongoing. The latest year 2020-21 shows 7 new deaths, up from 5 in 2019-20, which were up from 2 in 2018-19. We will put our latest data on our website on 25th January 2022. We concentrate on deaths because it is so difficult to prove CO in survivors.
Symptoms of CO are similar to those of any virus, including Covid 19, (except no high temperature). Testing the person for CO is unreliable due to time and fresh air/oxygen leaving blood or breath of a survivor. Therefore, in 2021 we have redoubled our efforts to obtain testing of the air in the home and appliances for CO and to identify the source/s of the CO.
We have continued to lobby IGEM, APPCOG and the Minister responsible for HSE but sadly, in our opinion, we have either been ignored or fobbed off. Details are on our website at https://www.co-gassafety.co.uk/information/list-of-work-done/
However, thanks to Phil Burrows of Cadent, we did receive some good news towards the end of the year, but this turned out to be more specific in the New Year 2022 (see note at the end).
Stephanie Peacock MP
In March 2021, Stephanie had a very good meeting with Stephanie Peacock MP over Teams. Trotter wrote to Peacock MP and her researcher and sent background material.
Stephanie Peacock MP obtained an adjournment debate in the House of Commons and spoke, see https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-04-21/debates/4DEC2B32-5920-4923-B969-E1FC5B2DF929/CarbonMonoxideSafetyTestingAndAwareness Stephanie Trotter rang a friend, Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Father of the House, and persuaded him to attend, which he very kindly did and spoke in favour.
In April the charity’s work group of directors/trustees, agreed to ask Stephanie Peacock MP to be our Labour MP and she kindly agreed, becoming our Labour party Parliamentary Friend.
Trotter wrote to Peacock MP about CO and how to prevent it. Stephanie Peacock MP was present for the photo launch of APPCOG’s ‘raising CO awareness’ over the summer. This was a great initiative.
One of the advantages of offering help to survivors & our data work, is that we learn about new dangers, so we can warn people. This year we’ve been consulted by a couple who bought a BBQ hut and were told they could sleep in it; they suffered exposure to CO. They are deciding what to do but this is a new concern. However, thankfully the instructions for most BBQ huts, advise against sleeping in them.
Open air CO deaths
We have included three recent open air CO deaths in the USA in our leaflet for the Jersey competition see https://www.co-gassafety.co.uk/resources/competition-jersey/ (scroll down and open our leaflet for Jersey). One death in 2019, another 2020 and a third 2021.
Apparently 20% of hydrogen will soon be added to natural gas in the pipes. This will apparently reduce CO by 70%. This is good news and has been confirmed to us by Thomas Isaac. But when will all gas consumers have access to this? Also, even low levels of CO can have adverse effects.
Having received, late 2020, a very welcome donation of £100,000 from the parents of someone who died of CO, we decided to look into making and distributing a film warning about CO. Sue Westwood, one of our directors, helped Stephanie with this. We’ve lost count of the number of media companies we’ve ‘met’ virtually. However, so far, we haven’t found the right firm at the right price.
We’ve also considered creating an e-learning course about CO for consumers, but we thought the price was too high. Sue has worked on one herself. Also, the Gas Safe Charity has an excellent one.
Our article published in the House (of Commons) magazine article 27th September
A website version with footnotes can be found:- https://www.co-gassafety.co.uk/its-time-for-action-against-the-silent-killer-in-our-homes/
Thanks to our survivors, who gave us their quotes, we have put in a double page spread into the House Magazine and it’s due to be published on the 24th January 2022. We have put a word version on the website see https://www.co-gassafety.co.uk/news220124/and we thank the survivors who gave us their stories and quotes. We have learned almost everything from those affected by CO and have always sought to put their views to government & industry.
We lobby generally at every opportunity.
In February 2021 Stephanie wrote to Bob Seely MP and copied to all the directors, including Andrew Rosindell MP but also Sir Peter Bottomley MP about the need to implement HSC/E’s recommendations, particularly to test for CO. We also asked for help to see the Ministers, particularly Mims Davies MP and Minister for HSE. Peter very kindly responded.
Sadly, HSE has ignored our request to meet as has the office of Mims Davies, MP, Minister for HSE.
Stephanie asked APPCOG to ask for a meeting with the Minister.
We continued to contribute to and lobby the All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group.
Ofgem has announced £450m Strategic Innovation Fund
Ofgem has announced £450m Strategic Innovation Fund https://www.current-news.co.uk/news/ofgem-announces-450m-strategic-innovation-fund yet apparently GDNs don’t relight and test for CO at every visit – why not? Why isn’t CO tested for at every opportunity?
Stephanie has written at least twice to HSE and Ofgem under the Freedom of Information Act about their lack of consultation under the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and their respective duties under the Gas Acts.
Huge cost of investigations for CO
We informed APPCOG about the huge cost of investigations. Yet it seems gas suppliers and possibly landlords can obtain this service for hundreds, whereas survivors are charged a hugely inflated price – thousands or tens of thousands. We have reliable information that gas suppliers and some social landlords, are charged £240 at most. Of course, it may be that the jobs done are different, but we don’t think so. Most cases don’t ever go to any kind of court proceedings – survivors don’t usually want to litigate, even in the very rare cases when they can.
Even homeowners now find it almost impossible to find experts to act for them to test their appliances for CO, let alone tenants.
Lack of experts to investigate, both gas experts and solicitors
We also informed APPCOG that there is a lack of investigators to work for our survivors or solicitors.
We have at least 6 survivors who need gas investigations. They are leaving their gas appliances cut off and not repaired because they want an investigation into suspected problems and/or have them relit and tested for CO. CORGI Technical and Morgan Lambert cannot help our survivors as apparently there are too few investigators for their own work.
Survivors need proof of CO to inform their medics. We would like to pay for these ourselves and are seeking a legal opinion, about whether or not the charity can pay solicitors and experts direct.
Survivors’ medical issues, Covid impact, Long Covid & Vaccine Reactions.
We suggested to APPCOG the need for a survey by COMED, APPCOG’s sub-group looking at medical issues and CO. We outlined the issue of CO’s effect on Covid, the vaccine and long Covid. This was due to one of our directors, Sue Westwood who has suffered from CO. Sue told us, ‘I’m in a Facebook group and the amount of people who have had TIAs (i.e. mini strokes) after having the vaccine is scary! Several had one after the Pfizer jab too. It also looks like many TIAs get misdiagnosed as migraine, as mine did.’ We wanted to raise the issue that perhaps, long Covid and reactions to the vaccine, are more likely to be suffered by those exposed to CO.
We also asked COMED to consider the case of Amber Yates, a young mother of 6 week old baby, Elliot, who suffered CO poisoning in their holiday caravan, along with her husband. Thankfully the family was saved by a CO alarm. The worrying part was the attitude of medics that, ‘we were making the whole thing up’. There was also a delay in a blood test and then a demand for arterial blood.
We further asked if COMED can find out the cost of testing a dead person for CO? We’ve been trying to find this out for decades.
Letters to the Minister for HSE
We wrote and sent two letters to Mims Davies, Minister responsible for the HSE, 18.01.21 pointing out that she was responsible for the HSE and gas emergency service, which in our opinion, should test air and gas appliances for CO. A further letter was sent 28.01.21.
Baroness Finlay co-chair of APPCOG and chair of CORT did kindly write to Mims Davies in June asking the Government to consider requiring the First Call Operators from the gas emergency service to test for CO when CO was suspected. We were surprised Baroness Finlay wrote only as co-chair of CORT. In our opinion, she received a formal response which took the issue no further. Nor was a meeting offered.
There is an obvious need for data. APPCOG had a meeting about this 01.04.21. Stephanie made the point that without testing for CO it was almost impossible to obtain data. An article based on the four year research study was published & can be found at https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdab132 Stephanie has related with the authors and had a virtual meeting with them.
CO-Gas Safety Data
Jennifer Wood continued to ably research, write to Coroners and their officers and compile the CO-Gas Safety data and our latest statistics will be published, as usual on our anniversary, on 25.01.22.
We continue to collect and publish these with the permission of the survivor or family see https://www.co-gassafety.co.uk/case-studies/ . We particularly value those from the industry and have published Kerry Potter’s this year. She is SGN’s, Group Social Impact and Vulnerability lead.
We also published an account of some friends of Stephanie’s, whose dog alerted them to the seriousness of the CO alarm sounding. We have at least two more case studies in the pipeline, one relating to a couple in Stephanie’s village and another about Amber Yates, the young mother.
We sought support for giving a talk on CO at the IGEM virtual conference (successful). We also lobbied for survivors or their representatives to be on the IGEM committee which decides the procedure to be followed after a CO alarm sounds (unsuccessful so far). We urged IGEM, as the professional body for gas, to lead in recommending testing for CO (unsuccessful). We also urged IGEM to lead on including CO from all fuels in the ACS course for Registered Gas Engineers (unsuccessful). We also suggested a study be done to prove servicing improved efficiency and safety.
Conference on Air Quality on 10.11.21 at Lords Cricket Ground
Stephanie attended the conference with Jonathan Kane, longstanding supporter of CO-Gas Safety.
Baroness Finlay gave a very good talk about air quality and particularly indoor air. Stephanie commented about how pleased she was that indoor air, low levels and solutions were discussed. Stephanie then asked if there could there be free testing for CO? Baroness Finlay said testing would cost a lot of money and doctors are too busy with Covid. Stephanie replied that testing the air only added 5-7 minutes to each visit of the gas emergency service, (research by Northern Gas Networks http://www.northerngasnetworks.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Giving-carbon-monoxide-nowhere-to-hide.pdf ) and Ofgem has plenty of funds. Stephanie was later asked for and sent this NGN research done in 2011-12.
Cross Department Committee on CO
21.04.21 Stephanie gave a talk at the cross departmental committee of civil servants about CO. Gordon Samuel (Katie Haines Memorial Trust) made a good point about a neighbour, a medic who worked at St George’s saying maybe lots of elderly people rushed in with respiratory problems were really CO. Gordon asked why isn’t this followed up with testing at the homes of such people? He queried whether or not they are being allowed to go home without being told to at least ring the gas emergency service?
Bucks Fire & Rescue
20.05.21 Stephanie also gave a talk to some members of the public about carbon monoxide, kindly arranged by Karen Lock of Bucks Fire & Rescue. They were a really great audience and asked some excellent questions.
IGEM Safety Conference
09.06.21 Stephanie gave a talk at the IGEM Safety conference (virtually of course, see https://www.co-gassafety.co.uk/resources/presentations/). Trotter had tried three times to get used to Hopin, the software IGEM uses and had had help from Tip Top Computers who had never heard of Hopin, but still found it very difficult. Sadly, the event seemed to be keener on hydrogen than CO. No questions were asked which was disappointing. The title of the talk was ‘Why testing for CO matters’.
IGEM kindly allowed survivors to access free, but none of them seemed to have managed to join, although several told Stephanie they had tried.
Neil Atkinson seemed to raise our hopes re research and Roland John’s course about CO from all fuels for Registered Gas Engineers, but this sadly went nowhere, (except the talk was allowed).
AGE UK IOW
30.11.21 Stephanie gave a talk to Age UK in the Isle of Wight. The audience was very appreciative and asked a couple of good questions.
13.04.21 Stephanie wrote to the Chief Coroner about a case concerning a man who could have died of CO in February. The deceased’s brother had asked the Coroner to test for CO. This was because the gas boiler for the building had had work done a few days before the death of the deceased. The building had 8 rooms with a communal laundry room, containing the gas boiler, next door to the deceased’s room.
The pathologist refused to test for CO because he said the blood was ‘the wrong colour’. Stephanie managed to persuade the Coroner to ask for a test, but it took weeks. The Coroner’s officer told Stephanie that if the police had asked for a test, it could take four months, (or longer if the police forgets to send the samples).
Stephanie considered this wasn’t good enough, particularly where others could be at risk.
Due to the millions available from Ofgem, we submitted our first application to EIC* in March. Stephanie heard we’d got through the first round re the EIC and would be invited to make a presentation to EIC on 31.03.21. * Energy Innovation Centre.
Stephanie decided, after a virtual meeting with Jane Blackwell and Anthony Reid, that the design specification for the funding application excluded testing for CO by the gas emergency service. So Stephanie wrote explaining why we would have to withdraw and not make a presentation.
Stephanie worked on another application. Stephanie sent the form to EIC asking for funding to set up a new properly funded body, independent of the fuel industry but funded by it using a model similar to the Advertising & Standards Authority. This body was to do what CO-Gas Safety tries to do on a shoestring. We received support from the Katie Haines Memorial Trust, Matt Cole from the Fuel Bank and Ben Kuchta, fellow of IGEM and Chris Anderson (of TED talks).
However, Stephanie heard that the CO-Gas Safety application to set up this new body (to do what CO-Gas Safety does), did not even get through the first round. We received the response, ‘other candidates submitted proposals which were better suited to the NIA Governance arrangements and focus areas of the call.
They also wanted to feed back that there are already groups looking at gas safety, including parliamentary groups and GDN collaborative groups.’ This was very disappointing as our application seemed to tick all the boxes in the VCMA document from Ofgem. But this refusal was unsurprising.
In October Stephanie had a very good virtual meeting with Jane Blackwell who seemed to understand the need to relight appliances and test for CO, so survivors have some proof. Jane kindly wrote down some questions such as, do the GDNs now relight and test for CO and if so, if CO found, do they give the PPM to the survivors for their medics? Jane will be putting these to the GDNs.
Stephanie wrote to Jane and explained that, if HSE told Ofgem testing was a safety issue, Ofgem would find the funds. This reflects both the law and what Rebecca Pickett, Senior Policy adviser at Ofgem told Stephanie.
Fuel Bank and Matt Cole previously of npower
We continued to receive help from Matt Cole (previously of npower and now at the Fuel Bank), both funding from npower and moral support. We are extremely grateful.
Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps
We continue to relate with them and have discussed developing a protocol and an App to record and provide data of incidents of CO in solid fuelled appliances. This is ongoing work.
Supporting a tenant seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court
The tenant is waiting to hear whether or not leave to appeal to the Supreme Court will be given see https://nearlylegal.co.uk/2020/0/the-trecarrell-conundrum/ and https://www.lambchambers.co.uk/latest-news/property-trecarrell-house-ltd-v-rouncefield-2020-ewca-civ-760/ and https://www.lambchambers.co.uk/latest-news/property-trecarrell-house-ltd-v-rouncefield-2020-ewca-civ-760/
In our opinion, this is an issue of public importance. In our view the essence is whether the lack of provision of a gas safety check can be cured after the tenant has taken occupation.
Stephanie agrees with Moylan’s dissenting judgement in the Court of Appeal which seemed to boil down to:- the difference between the law on gas safety and the laws on things like deposits, is that gas safety is a health and safety issue, so can’t be cured after the tenant has taken occupation.
Reg. 36(7) of the 1998 Gas Safety Installation and Use) Regulations. Also Reg. 36 (6).
Increase in dangerous gas appliances in use
‘A survey of 335 heating engineers, conducted by campaign group Project SHOUT, has identified an alarming rise in dangerous gas appliances, with over a third (39%) seeing poorly maintained or badly fitted appliances every week, with nearly two-thirds (61%) saying they saw them at least monthly.
A further 31% of engineers said they came across appliances, such as boilers, cookers, and fires, on a monthly basis that they would class as dangerous. Outside of the survey, one engineer reported condemning 49 boilers in just one day at a social housing provider.
Nearly a third (29%) reported seeing more dangerous appliances since COVID-19, which campaigners believe may be due to homeowners being reluctant to let engineers into their homes at the height of the pandemic, or that they simply couldn’t afford to have their appliances serviced, or tried to do it themselves.
Campaign group Project SHOUT, which commissioned the study, is concerned that with rising energy bills and plummeting temperatures this winter, cash strapped households may put servicing their appliances to the bottom of their list of priorities, which can make families at greater risk of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.’ https://www.hvpmag.co.uk/Installer-survey-reveals-increase-in-dangerous-gas-appliances-in-use/12808
In our opinion, Project Shout is to be congratulated for this study, but the findings are horrifying.
WHO’s climate change COP 26 report
The health report for climate action contained some interesting material.
Honour all citizen’s right to health. ‘Momentum is growing to recognise the human right to health, life, and to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, e.g. in the form of ongoing discussions around a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council 29, as well as through a growing number of litigation cases around the world 30.’
Causes of Alzheimer’s
In November, Stephanie sent a tweet to Hannah Thomasy about the New Scientist Causes of Alzheimer’s not mentioning pollution or CO. Stephanie wrote an email to Prof. Anne-Marie Minihane University of East Anglia re an advert opposite this article about how 40% of dementia cases could be prevented with regard to pollution and CO. Sent the Mexico city article by Lilian Calderon http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Destination+brain%3a+inhaled+pollutants+may+inflame+more+than+the+lungs.-a0227652701 and Beth Cheshire’s https://www.coresearchtrust.org/media-information/three-year-project-looking-at-risk-of-co-to-older-people-reveals-concerning-findings Again, wouldn’t testing for CO help prevention of Alzheimer’s?
CO alarms for England and Wales
In November Stephanie had a virtual meeting with Alex Jones Policy Advisor, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Social Housing Directorate about the Smoke and CO Alarm Regs. Stephanie mentioned what we considered was the wrong exclusion of gas cookers, a point also made by Baroness Finlay and APPCOG. Stephanie further mentioned the levels of CO for the CO alarms and EN alarm points. This was a very good meeting. Eddie Hughes MP is his Minister.
Throughout the year Stephanie has had virtual meetings with AICO. We are very impressed by the fact that an AICO alarm can have its data downloaded onto a smart phone, providing proof of CO.
Constant monitor for CO & VOCs can now be bought.
https://www.techregister.co.uk/amazons-insanely-affordable-air-quality-monitor-pairs-with-alexa-review-geek/ We query whether this is to any standard. We wonder if this operates as an alarm, but we doubt this. However, we look forward to CO alarms and monitors being built into smart phones.
18.01.21 Stephanie wrote also to Matthew Bateman, CEO of British Gas, about the need for a test of gas appliances for CO by the gas emergency service and/or British Gas on a charged basis.
We also asked for British Gas to take a lead on safety as CO was a safety issue and relevant all over the world. Sadly, Matthew Bateman CEO of British Gas delegated CO, which is a safety issue, to a PR person.
GDNs & JERSEY
We related with Phil Burrows of Cadent re competition going online https://www.co-gassafety.co.uk/competition-about-co-for-school-pupils/ and discussed Jersey. Cadent has very kindly agreed to share the costs of this competition.
16.02.21 4th anniversary of the death of Ken Jeffery. A very good article was published by the Jersey Evening Post with Margaret, Ken’s widow and Emma, Ken’s daughter on the front page. Margaret also made a podcast, see https://www.co-gassafety.co.uk/resources/competition-jersey/
23.06.21 Stephanie had a very productive zoom meeting with the authorities in Jersey; Pierre Chays, Linzi Duckworth and Robin Fitzgerald. They were all very helpful especially Pierre Chays, Assistant Registrar of Shipping and Harbour Pilot. Pierre offered to make a better film of him on his boat as he’s found his CO alarm goes off when he starts his engine. All the members of this group have offered to print and distribute a flyer about the competition we’re running on Jersey and produce a special Jersey edition of our leaflet. This was achieved. These are now on our website https://www.co-gassafety.co.uk/resources/competition-jersey/ Emmi Isham is kindly willing to visit Jersey with Safety Seymour and all that’s needed is for the Jersey schools to take up this offer. However, due to Covid this will now be 2022.
Throughout the year Stephanie had some very good virtual meetings with the GDNs, particularly SGN, NGN and Cadent. Recently, Stephanie has been relating well with Wales & West Utilities too.
THE GOOD NEWS
Approved quote from Phil Burrows of Cadent received 06.01.2022
‘Over the last 12 months Cadent have continued to raise awareness of carbon monoxide (CO) and have grown their existing initiatives and have piloted other projects that will allow their customer base to be safer in their homes and more knowledgeable on the sign, symptoms and knowledge of CO. As well as signing a 5 year contract with and education provider to reach over 200,000 school children through their Safety Seymour and CO Crew programmes, Cadent had a hugely successful Summer campaign targeting holiday makers and people having a staycation travelling across their footprint. The campaign made in excess of 8,000,000 impressions and used various innovative media to promote CO safety at home and whilst on holiday. Cadents messages could be seen in various places from toilets in services on the M6 motorway all the way through to London Underground stations.’
‘During 2021, Cadent have launched a pilot programme that supports our customers living in vulnerable situations or customers that may be left vulnerable after a Cadent visit. The pilot uses our own engineers who have obtained a further qualification to undertake CMDDA1 testing to identify the source of CO. By using this qualification and undertaking CMDDA1 investigations we are able to locate the source of CO and take the appropriate action to make the appliance safe and then reconnect the gas supply to keep the customer safe and warm in their home.’
Fantastic news to start the new year with!
We do have questions to ask; particularly, do the survivors receive in writing or digitally something showing proof of exposure to CO for their medics and ideally parts per million of CO?
Many thanks to all our directors and supporters. We could not work without you!
Stephanie Trotter, President & Director CO-Gas Safety