Over 17 million people at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning this winter

As temperatures drop and people turn up their heating, new research from Energy UK’s ‘CO Be Alarmed!’ campaign reveals that one in three Britons – over 17 million people – are at risk from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning as they don’t have a CO alarm in their home – despite nine in ten (94%) saying they are aware of the risk.

The research also reveals that the people of Liverpool are most at risk, with almost half (47%) saying they did not have a life-saving CO alarm. Norwich, Manchester and Leeds are also among the top ten cities most at risk with over 40% saying they don’t have a CO alarm.

Carbon monoxide can be omitted from everyday household appliances, such as a poorly maintained or faulty boilers or gas cookers. It is known as the ‘silent killer’ because you can’t see it, smell it or taste it, which is why it is so important to have an audible carbon monoxide alarm installed.

An estimated 30 people die and a further 4,000 are hospitalised every year from carbon monoxide poisoning in the UK. However, the true number is likely to be much higher as the symptoms can easily be mistaken for flu or tiredness.

Abbie Sampson, Director of External Affairs at Energy UK, said:

“As snow sweeps the country and people turn up their heating, it is worrying that one in three people don’t have a life-saving CO alarm which, for around £15, could protect them from this silent killer.

“Follow our simple ABC checklist to stay #COsafe – check you have an Alarm, test the Batteries and make sure you have had an up-to-date gas Check. And, if you are checking in on older relatives or neighbours, make sure you check that they have an audible CO alarm installed – it could save their life.”

The CO ‘Be Alarmed!’ campaign highlights some simple steps you can take to make sure you and your family stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning this winter:

  • Buy and install an inexpensive carbon monoxide alarm – you can get them from DIY stores, high street shops and online – just make sure you check for the safety marks;
  • Like a fire alarm, check it regularly and make sure the batteries are working;
  • Just like your car, it’s important to have your gas appliances, like your boiler and cooker, serviced regularly;
  • If you’re renting your landlord must ensure this done for you every year by a Gas Safe Registered engineer;
  • Be aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning – which included headaches, nausea and dizziness and similar to a common cold or the flu; and
  • And finally make sure you have good ventilation from fires and stoves and if you have a chimney make sure it is swept once a year.

Notes to editors:

  • The research for Carbon Monoxide Be Alarmed! was carried out by Opinium between 27.11.2018 and 29.11.2018 among 2,000 people, 18+, across the United Kingdom. The 17 million figure was calculated based on ONS estimation (June 2018) that the UK adult population is 52,079,000.
Top 10 cities most at risk from CO poisoning Percentage of people saying they didn’t have a CO alarm
Liverpool 47%
Norwich 44%
Manchester 42%
Leeds 42%
Nottingham 39%
Belfast 39%
Plymouth 38%
Birmingham 37%
Newcastle 36%
Bristol 35%
  • 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 co-bealarmed.co.uk
  • 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.