More than half of UK university students are at risk from the silent killer

  • Less than half (46%) of university students have a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm
  • More than half of students (56%) don’t recognise the symptoms of CO poisoning
  • Students twice as likely to think they have a hangover (85%) than CO poisoning (45%)

New research from Energy UK’s CO Be Alarmed! campaign today reveals that less than half (46%) of the UK university students in rented accommodation have a life-saving carbon monoxide alarm leaving the rest exposed to the silent killer. Six in ten (58%) also admit that they didn’t check if there was a CO alarm installed when they moved into their current rented accommodation.

The poll also revealed that half of UK university students don’t recognize the symptoms of CO poisoning which include dizziness, headaches and nausea. Students are twice as likely to think they have a hangover (85%) or the flu (84%) than CO poisoning (45%). Food poisoning (51%) and pregnancy (46%) also came above carbon monoxide poisoning in the list of situations students might attribute waking up with a headache, dizziness or nausea. Almost two thirds (63%) of students hadn’t had an up-to-date gas safety check and two in five (44%) didn’t know that they have the right to ask for an annual gas safety check from their landlord.

Abbie Sampson, Director of External Affairs at Energy UK and CO Be Alarmed! spokesperson, said:

“It is shocking that over half of UK university students in rented accommodation are at risk from the silent killer. You cannot see, smell or taste carbon monoxide. That’s why it is so important to have an audible carbon monoxide alarm fitted.”

“I urge all students to follow our simple ABC checklist – make sure you have an Alarm fitted, test the Batteries and make sure you have an up-to-date gas Check?”

Notes to editors

  1. CO Be Alarmed! is the national campaign to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by carbon monoxide. Since 2008, the campaign has encouraged people to install carbon monoxide alarms in their homes. The Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign is run by Energy UK. To find out more about the campaign you can visit
  2. The research for Carbon Monoxide Be Alarmed! was carried out by OnePoll between 10/10/2017 and 19/10/2017 among 1,000 university students that live in a rented private accommodation, across the United Kingdom.
  3. The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 only require landlords to fit CO alarms in properties that have solid-fuel heating appliances (i.e. coal or wood). In practice this is only about 8% of the rented property stock, whereas some 78% have gas appliances, meaning there is still a risk of CO poisoning. In Scotland and there is no differential as to the fuel type, landlords must fit CO alarms in all properties.
  4. Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, charcoal, coal and wood do not burn completely. The most common cause of this is when an appliance, such as a boiler or cooker, is installed incorrectly or poorly maintained. Carbon monoxide can also build up when flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.