Article for Progress Magazine by: Chris Bielby, Chairman – Gas Safety Trust

The Gas Safety Trust’s work understanding the Silent Killer

Understanding carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is essential to preventing death and injury and protecting consumers. CO is an invisible, tasteless and odourless gas produced by the incomplete combustion of a fuel, for example when gas, oil, coal or wood do not burn properly.

In the home this is most commonly caused by appliances and flues that have been incorrectly installed, not maintained or are poorly ventilated. Other locations and issues include boats, barbecues and vehicle exhausts

Over the last twenty years, fatalities from CO poisoning have fallen with the Department of Health estimating 30 deaths each year in England. What is less understood is the effect of long-term low-level exposure to CO. Could imperceptible exposure be having a detrimental effect upon peoples’ health? Are incidents of low-level CO poisoning being misdiagnosed as other illnesses such as migraines, colds or influenza. One of the challenges is that the symptoms of CO poisoning as very similar to other common conditions

Not only that, what can be done to protect vulnerable groups such as the young, the elderly, and pregnant women? What effect does it have on people over time, how can we better detect CO poisoning, and what can we do to mitigate the damage it causes?

In response to these questions, the Gas Safety Trust, has initiated a programme of research, undertaken by a broad range of organisations, to not only answer some of these questions but more broadly to improve how we educate and protect consumers, and to help keep them safe.

The research was paid for using the funds gift-aided by CORGI Services Ltd, a support and service provider to the UK heating and plumbing industry.

The Trust has been working with a range of first responders and healthcare professionals such as fire and rescue services, paramedics, accident and emergency consultants, midwives, general practitioners and environmental health services. This
will allow us to better understand peoples risk and susceptibility to CO poisoning and how we can improve the protocols and processes to allow these professionals to identify CO poisoning and intervene at an earlier stage.

Work is also ongoing to identify more reliable biomarkers will help healthcare professionals spot patients who have been exposed to CO and projects are under development which will improve and test the efficacy of treatments and therapeutics.

We also are collecting data and evidence throughout our research portfolio which will help us to make the case to policymakers to improve and introduce legislation and regulation which will keep consumers out of harms’ way.

Speaking about our pioneering work, Caitriona Deakin, CEO at CORGI Services Ltd, said: “We provide funds to support the Gas Safety Trust to help make a difference in the industry. And the on-going research they’re commissioning will ensure the
safety of consumers and tradespeople is the best it can be.”

Our key aim is to use our research to help those with an interest in CO make the public safer. We are always looking for new research to fund, and for potential co-funding partners and we would be keen to hear from interested parties.

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