A recent survey carried out among Warwick University students searching for new rented accommodation has highlighted a lack of awareness of symptoms that could be a sign of potentially fatal carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
The survey was carried out by local home safety products specialist, Sprue Safety Products, at the Universitys annual Housing Day, where students looking to move off campus for the next academic year gather information and advice from local housing providers and community groups to help them in their accommodation search.
Despite the majority (91%) saying they were aware of carbon monoxide, fewer than half (43%) of respondents said they knew the symptoms which could indicate presence of the gas. This could have devastating consequences.
Often dismissed as flu, food poisoning or a hangover, carbon monoxide poisoning affects around 4,000 people in the UK every year, but it is estimated that one third of a million people suffer from exposure to this poisonous gas in their homes every year unknowingly1.
Badly fitted, poorly serviced or faulty gas appliances can put occupants at risk from gas leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning. Worryingly CO can also leak from adjoining properties and garages.
Students and other people living in rented properties can be at greater risk, as cooking and heating appliances are often older or misused. By law, in addition to having working carbon monoxide alarms in the right locations, landlords must ensure all appliances are safety checked and a copy of their gas safety record given to tenants to show that the gas appliances in their property are safe to use.
The danger is - with no taste or smell - CO is undetectable to the human senses and because symptoms are often mistaken for other ailments, its presence can go unnoticed until its too late. Even low levels over a few hours can be as lethal as high levels over a short amount of time, causing lasting damage to your health.
The only way to detect its presence is with an audible carbon monoxide alarm. As a smoke alarm alerts you to fire, a properly placed CO alarm detects the lowest levels early, warning you before the gas becomes life threatening so action can be taken to stay safe.
Although smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are fitted as standard in Warwick University halls of residence, only 21 (23%) of the 90 students who completed the survey said CO alarms were fitted in their parents home.
Organiser of the event, Students Union Advice Centre Manager, Amanda Woodfield said: Looking for accommodation off campus can be a daunting task, especially at a time when many are only just settling into university life and living away from home for the first time. Our Housing Day aims to make that process easier and ensure students are equipped to make an informed, safe choice.
Sprues involvement this year was hugely valuable in providing essential advice to ensure students know what to ask for from their landlord and understand how to stay safe from any potential sources of carbon monoxide.
It also gave us the chance to find out how much students knew about CO and to remind them of the risks and symptoms that could indicate poisoning a couple had even had personal experience. Although there was a general awareness of CO, the survey clearly highlighted a need for further education, so we hope to run a similar event at the start of the new academic year.
Students taking part in the survey were entered into a draw to win one of 20 FireAngel carbon monoxide alarms provided by Sprue.