Rising gas prices bring greater risk of carbon monoxide exposure

Today marks the start of a difficult period for many, as gas prices will increase for millions of households across the UK. With less money available for the essentials, households may struggle to afford the up-keep on their homes, meaning gas safety risks could develop. Carbon monoxide exposure (which has been linked to brain damage and heart disease as well as having lethal effects) can be caused by faulty or damaged combustion appliances, un-swept chimneys, and petrol generators – all of which get used more frequently to keep us warm over the winter period.

Barry Sheerman MP, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Carbon Monoxide Safety says:

“Increasing energy prices will obviously hit the most vulnerable households and the elderly the hardest, and push many more families and individuals over the line into fuel poverty. It is vital that things which keep us safe from carbon monoxide exposure, like regular appliance servicing and good quality carbon monoxide alarms, are not pushed down the priority list.

Unfortunately, the reality for many people this winter risks being rather bleak, in what is expected to be one of the coldest winters the UK has seen for some time. Landlords must ensure they are upholding their duties to tenants by providing annual gas safety checks; and I encourage everyone to educate themselves and their families about the risks, signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning – it could save a life.”

Ofgem has been warning of the coming price increase since August, but options for consumers are more and more limited; being a savvy shopper can only get you so far when prices are up across the market after the price cap increase. The regulator advises:

“Any customer in vulnerable circumstances or worried about paying their energy bill should contact their supplier to access the support available. Customers may be eligible for extra help such as affordable debt repayment plans or payment breaks, emergency credit for prepayment meters and a £140 bill rebate under the Warm Home Discount.”

Unsafe behaviours, which increase the risk of exposure to carbon monoxide include: using gas cooking appliances (hobs and ovens) to heat the room, use of old or poor condition bottle gas space heaters, blocking ventilation outlets, and the practice of heating only one room in the house and living and sleeping solely in that room, which is more commonly found with elderly individuals.

Many customers whose energy suppliers have gone bust face higher prices, even if they were on a fixed rate tariff before. With all these increased costs to think of, many may cancel or put off their annual appliance servicing and chimney sweeping.

Until the outcome of the government’s consultation on domestic smoke alarms is published, only private landlords have a duty to supply carbon monoxide alarms in properties where there is a solid fuel combustion appliance, such as a stove or fireplace. With individuals struggling to meet any additional costs, carbon monoxide exposure and poisoning is likely to rise.

Raising public awareness about the risks of carbon monoxide and what can be done to prevent exposure is more important than ever before. The annual campaign “Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week” runs from 22 - 28 November in 2021.

To find a registered gas engineer and book in a service, search the Gas Safe Register website.

Follow @APPCOG_UK on twitter for more updates about Carbon Monoxide Awareness Week 2021.