Fumes from faulty heaters kill 50 a year

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The Independent Online
A CAMPAIGN to curb the number of deaths caused by carbon monoxide poisoning in Britain's homes was launched by the Government yesterday. Each year, an average of 50 people are killed by the fumes from boilers and other heaters.

The campaign will concentrate on Wales and the Midlands where almost half of the deaths have occurred over the past 10 years. The Department of Trade and Industry says it has no idea why these places suffer the highest mortality. But it warns that there is a misconception that most fatalities happen in poorly maintained rented accommodation and holiday cottages.

Some 70 per cent of the victims are poisoned in homes that they themselves own.

The department will spread the word with a road show that will target the danger regions and which has been organised with the help of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. It will give advice on how to spot the danger signs when it visits Cardiff, Nottingham and Birmingham.

Dr Kim Howells, the Consumer Affairs minister, said: ``Awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning and taking preventative action are the best ways to avoid becoming another carbon monoxide statistic.''

It is not only gas consumers who are at risk. Oil, coal or wood burning boilers and stoves can all produce lethal levels of carbon monoxide if they are not properly maintained, or used in badly ventilated rooms.

The department has had a safety warning printed on millions of gas bills during the winter, when almost all the deaths occur. There will also be television advertisements and leaflets placed in GP surgeries.

Dr Howells said: ``Take care if you have moved house recently or moved into rented accommodation. Find out when the boiler, other appliances and flues were last checked and by whom. If all your family are suffering from unexplained, flu-like symptoms contact your doctor; it could be carbon monoxide poisoning.''

Heating systems should be checked for safety once a year by a competent installer, and a chimney that has previously been used for another fuel should be swept before a gas fire or boiler is fitted.