Northern Ireland has the highest rate of fatalities from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning in the UK, latest figures have revealed.
Alarming data from the Carbon Monoxide Hotspot Report 2011 has highlighted the need for greater awareness in Northern Ireland of the dangers of the deadly gas.
According to the Gas Safety Trust report, there were six incidents, seven deaths and four casualties from carbon monoxide poisoning here between July 2010 and June 2011.
During this period Northern Ireland was rocked by two high-profile tragedies where carbon monoxide claimed the lives of four people.
Catherine McFerran, the mother of 18-year-old Neil McFerran, who died in August 2010, said: “These statistics show a lot of work needs to be done and shows how important raising awareness is.”
The report has been published as the Department of Finance and Personnel prepares to examine responses to a public consultation on carbon monoxide alarms — due to close on Friday.
Finance Minister Sammy Wilson proposes to make it necessary for carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted in dwellings where a new or replacement combustion appliance is being installed.
The new legislation could be in place by early next year.
However, Mrs McFerran said it should be compulsory to install an alarm in all homes in Northern Ireland.
Mrs McFerran launched the charity — Gis A Hug Foundation — alongside Katrina Davidson, who lost her son Aaron in the same tragic incident.
The organisation is dedicated to distributing carbon monoxide alarms to help save lives.
“If there had been an alarm fitted we wouldn’t be in the position we are in now,” she added.
Despite the shocking number of fatalities, the Gas Safety Trust warned more people could be at risk than is currently known.
Nigel Dumbrell, head of charitable operations, said: “The records do not capture information about the number of people in Northern Ireland who are unwittingly exposed to low levels of CO poisoning — levels that may cause long-term ill-health but go undetected.”
The long-term effects of poisoning by carbon monoxide can be extremely serious and can affect memory, brain function, behaviour and cognition.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea and vomiting, exhaustion, drowsiness, dizziness and lightheadedness and chest pain.
Further information about the dangers of carbon monoxide can be found at www.gisahugfoundation.co.uk.