The Silent Killer

Last Christmas morning, the Hughes family from Co Mayo suffered the most terrible of tragedies. Padraig Hughes (20) died in his sleep from inhaling toxic carbon monoxide fumes from a leaking gas boiler.  His twin sister, Emma, narrowly survived.

“IT would be hard for any parent to imagine a more hellish Christmas morning – going to wake your precious children and not being able to. Slowly realising they are in serious trouble. Being unable to make contact with the emergency services. And it dawning on you – too late – that a €60 alarm could have prevented the whole tragedy.”

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is highly dangerous. You can’t see it or smell it. In fact it is often called “the silent killer”. It is thought to be responsible for about 40 deaths in Ireland each year. CO leaks can happen in any home or enclosed space, at any time. It is one of the bitter ironies of our modern age that the practices and products we use to make our lives more comfortable, often pose a potential risk to our basic health and safety. We go to great lengths to insulate our homes in an effort to increase energy and heating efficiency but, while making our dwellings cosier, we are also making it difficult for fresh air to enter and for carbon monoxide to be vented properly. There is no law In Ireland for domestic dwellings in relation to carbon monoxide.

Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those of cold or flu. They include headache, feeling sick, tiredness, and dizziness. Because of the similarity of the symptoms to other conditions, carbon monoxide poisoning is often missed.

carbon-monoxide-alarm

Carbon Monoxide alarms can be used to provide a warning in the event of a dangerous build-up of CO but they are no substitute for regular inspection and maintenance of appliances, vents, flues and chimneys.

The Hughes family have launched a personal campaign for legislation surrounding carbon monoxide alarms. They want regulations put in place that will make fixed carbon monoxide alarms compulsory in buildings and believe people should be made as aware of them as they are of smoke alarms.

You can protect your home from the dangers of this deadly gas by taking preventive measures and by learning to recognise the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Click here to find out more.

Source:  Tribune News and Carbon Monoxide.

5 Responses to The Silent Killer

  1. Laura says:

    This post is so revenant I have emailed the link to people. Brilliant work as ever Steph. And me at 6.00am first to comment too!!

  2. Grannymar says:

    I wish we had Carbon Monoxide alarms when my mother was alive. I always got a smell of gas when I visited, yet she could not smell it. It turned out she had a leak!

    House is all electric now.

  3. Steph says:

    Laura – Thanks for your support. There’s a radio campaign running here at the moment to highlight the dangers of carbon monoxide so I added a human dimension to highlight it. I happened to hear Padraig Hughes’s father interviewed on the radio last month and was deeply moved by his family tragedy.

    Grannymar – A straight forward gas leak is different to a carbon monoxide leak. Carbon monoxide is produced when a heating appliance is faulty and produces lethal fumes that are odourless.

    It can also be produced when fuels such as gas, coal, oil and wood do not fully burn. When a fire burns in an enclosed space (no ventilation), all the oxygen is used up and replaced with carbon dioxide. Then, carbon dioxide builds in the air, which stops the fuel from burning properly. It then releases carbon monoxide. In other words, it’s possible to suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning without having a gas supply in the house! The key to prevention in this instance, is to make sure rooms are ventilated and air vents aren’t blocked.

  4. Annb says:

    This is really important issue especially with the new drive to hermetically seal our homes in a bid to save energy. We had a similar issue with natural radon gas in our home when I was a kid. The readings went sky high when we go the double glazing in! I heard that interview with Padraig’s father and it was incredibly moving. I hope that their campaign will help them deal in some way with their tragic loss. It is important for them to know that their pain may save another life. Sterling work as ever Steph.

  5. Steph says:

    Ann – You’ll give me a swelled head again 😉

    I was driving when that interview was broadcast and I had to stop the car to listen to it as I could barely see through the tears. I admire the Hughes family greatly for campaigning to save others from a similar fate.

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