Belfast Telegraph

Mothers lead killer gas campaign

Two mothers who lost their teenage sons to carbon monoxide poisoning are spearheading a campaign to highlight the lethal risk of the silent killer.

More than half the population of Wales is at risk from the deadly odourless gas because people are failing to fit alarms at home.

Many others have a false sense of security because they wrongly believe a home smoke alarm also protects them against the invisible gas.

Millions more across the UK risk tragedy through a combination of failing to fit an alarm and falsely believing they are already protected, new research reveals.

Mothers Catherine McFerran and Katrina Davidson lost their 18-year-old sons, Neil and Aaron, to carbon monoxide poisoning in August 2010.

The teenagers were on a holiday break at a seaside apartment complex in Castlerock, Co Londonderry, Northern Ireland, awaiting their exam results.

Both were found overcome by poison fumes by their parents, who travelled to the apartment complex after they failed to return home. A teenage friend survived.

National campaign Carbon Monoxide - Be Alarmed! has published new research highlighting that many people remain at risk from the deadly poison gas.

Its findings are made public as it becomes compulsory in Scotland to install a carbon monoxide alarm whenever a new fuel-burning appliance is fitted.

"Since our sons were cruelly taken from us by this silent killer, we have campaigned to try to prevent similar tragedies," both mothers said today.

"Carbon monoxide alarms are now compulsory for all new homes in Northern Ireland and when new appliances are installed in Scotland, but many people in older homes or in the rest of the UK may still be at risk.

"Make sure you and your loved ones are protected: make sure you have a working, audible carbon monoxide alarm in your home. It is not a risk worth taking."

The new research shows more than 1.6 million people in Wales are still at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning because they don't have an alarm in their home.

Of those without a carbon monoxide alarm, 42% said it was because they have a smoke alarm, indicating many do not realise it cannot detect the gas.

It found that 45% of people in Wales claimed to have a carbon monoxide alarm - far higher than the level found during fire service visits. The true figure could be as low as one in 10 homes.

For the UK as a whole the latest figures show 4000 people are treated for the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning every year, and at least 40 people die.

But in France, which has a similar population to the UK, carbon monoxide is tested for during post mortems and the number of deaths attributed to it is far higher.

Dr Rob Hicks, who is supporting the campaign, said: "At high levels, carbon monoxide can kill you in a matter of minutes. At lower levels, it can cause a range of serious and long-term health problems.

"The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are very hard to recognise, even for doctors, as they are similar to many common illnesses like flu and food poisoning.

"This makes it very easy to miss the warning signs, with life-threatening consequences. Don't take the risk. Most people wouldn't dream of not having a smoke alarm - it should be the same with carbon monoxide alarms. Make sure you have an audible carbon monoxide alarm, and that it works."

Carbon monoxide has no smell, colour or taste and installing an audible alarm that sounds when it is present is the only way to make sure you are protected.

The gas can be produced by any fuel-burning appliance, such as a boiler, cooker or fire, which is faulty or doesn't have adequate ventilation.

Carbon Monoxide - Be Alarmed! is the national campaign to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by carbon monoxide.

The campaign is run by Energy UK on behalf of Britain's six major gas and electricity companies in partnership with the Dominic Rodgers Trust, and is supported by more than 40 other organisations.

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