OFTEC highlights the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning within NI households

OFTEC, the organisation that represents the liquid fuel heating industry in Northern Ireland, has pledged its support to Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month throughout November.

Research from Northern Ireland Research and Statistics Agency (NISRA) has shown that carbon monoxide (CO) has claimed the lives of 49 people in the past six years. Further research from the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group has shown that only 50% of consumers are aware of the potential risk with oil heating.

CO can be produced within any type of heating system as a result of carbon fuels not burning correctly. Described as the silent killer, CO is a colourless, odourless gas and poisoning can result in severe long-term health complications, or even death. Critical symptoms to watch out for include tiredness, dizziness and headaches, with younger and older people most at risk.

OFTEC, has issued a simple ABC safety checklist to guide households in NI on the key steps to reduce risk:

  • Alarm – purchase a CO alarm (approximately £20) for every room which has a fuel burning appliance such as a boiler, wood burner or open fire. Where a new or replacement combustion appliance (solid fuel, gas, oil), is installed in a dwelling, a carbon monoxide detector/alarm should be provided in the room where the appliance is located.
  • Batteries – regularly ensure all the alarms are functional by holding the ‘test' button.
  • Check – households with incorrectly installed or poorly maintained appliances are at a great risk of exposure to CO. It is crucial to have your boiler serviced at least once a year by an OFTEC registered technician to check it is in working order.

In the event of a CO alarm going off, OFTEC's advice is to open the windows, leave the building immediately and call the emergency services.

David Blevings, OFTEC Ireland Manager, said: "An annual service of the boiler by an OFTEC registered technician is your first line of defence. The technician will check the appliance to make sure it is operating efficiently and safely. It's extremely important that householders realise that there is potential risk from all fossil fuel appliances and take sensible safety measures. By supporting Carbon Monoxide Awareness Month, OFTEC hopes to reduce the potential risk to homeowners across Northern Ireland through our checklist. We hope other organisations will get involved and support such an important campaign to help save lives."