The House of Commons played host to a reception promoting the Make CO Alarms Law campaign on 2 February, which argues that carbon monoxide (CO) alarms should be mandatory in homes across England and Wales.
The campaign is led by Plumb Center, Honeywell and the Katie Haines Memorial Trust, a charity established by the family of 31-year-old Katie Haines, who drowned in her bath due to losing consciousness from CO poisoning in 2010.
At the parliamentary reception, a hard-hitting film produced by the Trust was shown to MPs and guests, illustrating how quickly CO can affect people in the home. Gordon Samuel, father of the late Ms Haines, explained that the camera represents the movement of the deadly gas – aptly nicknamed ‘the silent killer’ – as it travels from its source to its victims.
“I’m making this impassioned plea today because it’s too late for my family,” said Mr Samuel, appealing to the MPs present. “Nothing will bring my daughter back, but you can help other people.”
Around 40 people die every year from accidental CO poisoning, and 4,000 people per year are taken to A&E diagnosed with CO poisoning, according to the Health & Safety Executive. Symptoms include headaches, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, dizziness, convulsions and unconsciousness, and can result in long-term neurological damage, cognitive impairment and death.
To tackle the high number of CO-related fatalities, the Make CO Alarms Law campaign is asking government to make the installation of CO alarms a legal requirement when any carbon-burning appliance is installed in a home – not just wood-burning appliances, as is currently law.
Gail van Dijk, Make CO Alarms Law campaign manager at Plumb and Parts Center, highlighted that this law has already been implemented in Scotland and Northern Ireland. “We have inconsistencies across the UK and across fuel types,” she said. “We are calling on the government to change the law in England and Wales.
“With the General Election just weeks away, we are also calling on all political parties to make a clear manifesto commitment to change the law and raise awareness of the deadly threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.”
West Ham Labour MP Lyn Brown, who attended the reception today, expressed her support for the proposed changes.
“Making the case for making CO alarms law is common sense. The evidence is clear,” she said. “I hope that by working together cross-party, we can save as many individuals as possible.”