EU Petition

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Petition to the European Parliament to ask for changes to reduce deaths and injuries from unintentional poisoning from carbon monoxide (CO) and other products of combustion (CO+). Allocated number 0016-15.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas which can be emitted by faulty cooking and heating appliances powered by any carbon based fuel that burns.

Less than 2% of CO can kill in between one and three minutes (see Para 74 table 23 page 26 )

CO cannot be sensed using human senses.

Medics rarely diagnose CO poisoning and it is difficult to diagnose partly because CO mimics viruses and food poisoning and also because different members of the same family can suffer different symptoms.

  • Deaths in the UK are estimated as 50 deaths and 4,000 visits to A & E

This estimate was later revised to 40 deaths

The impact on the population is vast.

The cost is of great concern. Even by Department of Health estimates on England & Wales the cost to the taxpayer is £178 million a year, according to Baroness Finlay co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group. CO is therefore a matter of public importance.

CO-Gas Safety has undertaken data collection, collation and publication since 1995 see here and here (PDF).

CO-Gas Safety data:-

A. Has been collected, collated and published since 1995.

B. Collects CO incidents and deaths from ALL Fuels.

C. Has some kind of report, authority (e.g. Solid Fuel Association) or Coroner’s letter to support every entry on our database with regard to the acute deaths from CO.

D. Tries to check every death with the Coroner concerned and most now help

(although Scotland lacks a Coronial system).

E. Publishes the names of the dead on the Internet as a memorial so anyone can check.

F. Is the only data to have been validated twice by an independent statistician, Dr Craggs (most recently in summer 2014).

G. Has had over 19 years of input from a victim based organisation that simply seeks the truth.

H. Has a form on our website for the Coroner to fill up after the inquest and which we encourage them to look at before the inquest in order to think about what evidence to call at the inquest (e.g. was there a CO alarm and was it to EN 50291, was it in date and did it work?).

No other UK body does all this.

However, in the opinion of CO-Gas Safety with its 20 years of experience, there are many more CO related deaths, injuries and chronic ill health that are not even suspected to be connected to CO. Please note that there are 3,500 unexplained deaths in the UK every year between the ages of 16 and 64, (New Scientist December 2004), and even these are not automatically tested for CO.

2. The UK requires compulsory registration and 5 yearly competency testing of gas appliance installers and maintenance technicians performing work for consumers.

UK Gas Distribution Companies are also obliged to provide a guaranteed 1 hour “Emergency Service Response” to consumer reports of fumes or gas leaks (not CO) but this is not the case in all EU countries.

3.There is a further risk from other products of combustion which we call CO+ (see here)

It is worth noting that while smoking is considered a risk with regard to many diseases (e.g. lung cancer), indoor air pollution from the products of combustion is usually not even considered. Yet the impact from the other products of combustion, especially with regard to indoor air where pollutants are likely to be much more concentrated, is likely to be huge.

4. From talking to victims and their families we quickly came to the conclusion that raising awareness of the dangers of CO and how to avoid being poisoned are the most important issues.

  • From our work with victims and families we also came to the conclusion that a free or reasonably priced test of the emissions from appliances and also indoor air for CO (and ideally CO+) are also very important.
  • At least six people died from carbon monoxide being emitted from a Beko cooker that had a grill door that could be shut. There needs to be a Government backed recall system. Barry Mulcahy set up a website called Total Recall in 2010 but had to stop this in 2014 due to lack of support and funding. (Note A mistake was made and Total Recall should have been Recall UK. We are trying to persuade the EU to allow us to change this).

7. From our work we now appreciate that by talking to victims and families, as well as studying individual tragedies and how the fuel industry works, we learn a huge amount of detail about what went wrong and how to prevent future unnecessary deaths and injuries. Deaths and injuries often result in family collapse, loss of work and the need to be cared for, which is not only tragic but is also a drain on the resources of the state.

We petition the EU to consider taking the following action:-

  • To persuade or require EU governments to put out a sustained programme of  education and prime time TV public health warnings about the dangers of emission from all fuels, (gas to wood) all appliances (boilers to barbecues) and in all types of accommodation (from bungalows to boats).

Such warnings should also inform people how to prevent unintentional poisoning by CO+ by using qualified people to install and regularly maintain appliances according to manufacturers’ instructions, to regularly sweep and check chimney and flues, to ensure adequate ventilation and as an extra safeguard, to install a CO alarm to EN 50291.

Funding for this is lacking but could be provided by the EU or by a levy on the wealthy fuel suppliers.

A levy on the gas suppliers to raise awareness and for research was recommended by the Health & Safety Commission (now Executive) in 2000 (after an exhaustive gas safety review and with the support of the majority of the stakeholders) but never implemented, in our opinion due to lobbying by the wealthy gas suppliers.

  • To require EU governments to ensure appliance installers and maintenance technicians are well trained and regularly tested to demonstrate their up to date competence and have their competencies publicly available in order to install, maintain and test appliances.

Such engineers should also be tested on their competence and be required to use EN50379 compliant flue gas analysers to test appliances after installation or maintenance and to test indoor air for CO using EN50543 compliant equipment to ensure sources of CO are found and isolated.

  • To require warnings about CO+ to be clearly marked on fuel (such as bags of charcoal for barbecues) and appliances powered by carbon based fuels.
  • To require CO alarms to EN 50291 to be installed in all property.
  • To set up an EU wide organisation providing services and a website for recalls of dangerous products, ideally supported by funding for prime time TV warnings about them.
  • To require EU governments to provide at least one organisation in each EU country to provide free help and support to victims and their families and ideally free or affordable tests of appliances and indoor air for CO as well as undertake the work of collecting, collating and publishing the deaths and injuries from unintentional CO poisoning.

From this work the organisations should suggest improvements to governments and to the EU that could be made to reduce these unnecessary tragedies.

© Copyright CO-Gas Safety 2015