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Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week focuses on "forgotten" victims

Increased recognition of the symptoms and improved medical care for the victims are two of the main themes of this year’s Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week, which is being launched by CO-Awareness at the House of Lords on Monday 17 November 2008.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, usually the result of poorly maintained boilers or other domestic appliances, is thought to kill 50 people in Britain every year and death rates are rising.  But there are also believed to be many more victims suffering the ongoing effects of CO poisoning who are not accurately diagnosed and as a result are not receiving appropriate medical support and treatment.

CO-Awareness is a registered charity based in Cheshire that is working to raise awareness of the dangers of CO poisoning and make every area in the UK a safer place to live.

Lynn Griffiths, President of CO-Awareness and founder of the CO-Awareness Week, has been actively campaigning since 2005 but her own direct experience began over 20 years ago after her own children were all poisoned by carbon monoxide.

She commented: “CO-Awareness is becoming increasingly concerned at the growing number of victims who are developing similar, if not identical illnesses, from their exposure to the products of combustion such as carbon monoxide.

"We suspect it’s this exposure that is responsible for the long-term health issues that so many victims are suffering from. We are calling on government, industry and the medical experts to investigate this possibility as a matter of the utmost urgency.

“Carbon monoxide is the most common poison in the UK today yet there is still no medical support for those poisoned by this chemical and it is not routinely tested for at post mortems. We need to make sure all doctors, especially those in emergency departments and GPs, are aware of the symptoms that carbon monoxide can cause.”

As well as its clear message to the healthcare profession, CO-Awareness Week is intended to draw the dangers of CO poisoning to the wider public’s attention and CO-Awareness is also campaigning for a range of safety measures, including annual servicing and checking of all heating appliances, the fitting of CO alarms as standard and the regular checking of all detector alarm sensors with a gas inclusive test.

The House of Lords event, which launches a week-long programme of awareness initiatives, will include presentations from a number of speakers including the Minister for Health and Safety, Lord McKenzie.

Attendees at the House of Lords event will include victims who have been poisoned by CO and those who have lost friends and loved ones to this silent and preventable killer. 

Lynn Griffiths concluded: “It should not take a tragedy to alert the British public to the dangers of CO poisoning. We must no longer stay silent about this silent killer and this year’s Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week will seek to address a wide range of issues but with the long-term victims of CO poisoning at the heart of the debate.”