It has very sadly been reported over the weekend that an elderly couple and their daughter are believed to have died as result of suspected carbon monoxide poisoning from a portable heater in their caravan. Carbon monoxide, which is known as the silent killer, is believed to take approximately 40-50 lives and result in around 4,000 attendances at Accident & Emergency each year in England. This tragic event highlights the importance of ongoing campaigns to raise awareness of this deadly gas.
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas which is what makes it so difficult to detect until it is too late. It can be produced when the burning of certain fuels such as gas, coal, wood or oil fails to burn off properly. It can therefore be created by most sources of heat used in the home. Unfortunately, over the last year there has also been a spate of deaths from the use of portable and disposable BBQ’s that have been used inside caravans or tents.
The gas, if inhaled prevents red blood cells from carrying oxygen through the body. Exposure can be fatal but can also lead to brain damage as a result of the lack of oxygen being taken to the brain, which if serious, can have a significant debilitating affect and change lives. There are symptoms which if identified early on can prevent further and more serious consequences from exposure, however they are very similar to those of flu and are often mistaken. The common symptoms to be aware of include the following and if experienced it is vital that carbon monoxide is checked for and dealt with if found –
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Chest pain and/or breathlessness
- Dizziness and/or lack of co-ordination
- Confusion and/or memory loss
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be avoided and it is important that awareness continues to be raised to try and stop further tragedies from happening. The easiest way to protect yourself and your family is to buy and install a carbon monoxide alarm. They work in much the same way as a smoke alarm but will alert you to the presence of this highly poisonous gas quickly so that action can be taken. Portable alarms can be purchased as well to take on holiday. It is also sensible to ensure that your central heating system, fixed and portable fires or heaters, chimneys or flues etc are regularly inspected and kept in good working order. Likewise, these steps will apply to employers who have a duty to keep their workforce safe. Finally, portable and disposable BBQ’s should NEVER be used inside; in particular they should never be used inside a caravan or a tent as they were not designed for this use and can be lethal.
Harris Fowler has worked with the CO Awareness charity and believes that these are serious messages which need to be delivered to reduce the number of people affected by this toxic killer.
Harris Fowler has a team of specialist personal injury solicitors who can offer advice on carbon monoxide poisoning claims from arising from rental accommodation, in the workplace or if affected on holiday. Free and friendly legal advice is available on 0800 213 214 or visit harrisfowler.co.uk
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