Autumn will soon be in full swing, and it won’t be long before the central heating is cranked up in many British homes. But as well as warming people up, the big switch-on could also bring with it a silent killer.

And a Huddersfield woman knows more than most how terrible that can be.

Stacey Rodgers lost her son Dominic to carbon monoxide poisoning and is now helping to launch the new safety campaign.

Faulty appliances that use fossil fuel (coal, gas, oil or wood) can produce carbon monoxide, a difficult to detect colourless, odourless and tasteless gas - which can also cause sudden collapse, loss of consciousness and even death.

It’s estimated that more than 4,000 people in the UK attend A&E departments each year because of carbon monoxide poisoning, with at least 40 dying from it.

The Department of Health estimates the true number of people exposed to sub-lethal amounts of carbon monoxide is even greater, however. Older people, children, pregnant women and their unborn children, and those with breathing problems or cardiovascular disease, are at increased risk of its effects.

Yet, research suggests that 43% of Britons don’t have their gas appliances checked annually, as is advised, and 10% have never had them checked at all.

Gas Safety Week (September 15-21) aims to draw attention to this potentially fatal safety check omission, in a bid to cut poisoning cases.

Scott Darroch, spokesperson for the Gas Safe Register, the register of qualified, legal gas engineers which runs Gas Safety Week, warns: “People with carbon monoxide poisoning might not necessarily put two and two together. You’re feeling dizzy and a bit ill - is it flu? Carbon monoxide poisoning can be very hard to detect.”

The dangers associated with carbon monoxide poisoning should never be underestimated, as Miss Rodgers knows from personal experience. It caused the death of her 10-year-old son, Dominic, in 2004. Extra shockingly, the leak came from a faulty flue and boiler in the house next door to theirs.

Stacey Rodgers releases balloons for Dominic's Day at Castle Hill, Huddersfield - watched by Gary Charlesworth and Ian Hodgkins of Northern Gas Networks.
 

The devastated mum, from Deighton, set up the Dominic Rodgers Trust in memory of her son, in a bid to raise awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“The carbon monoxide seeped through brickwork underneath Dominic’s bedroom, and killed him while he was sleeping,” she explains.

“Be aware people, make sure you get all your fuel burning appliances checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer, and in the second line of defence, fit a carbon monoxide alarm. The alarms have proven to save lives; this is the only way you will know carbon monoxide is present.”

It’s also important to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, she stresses. “Recognising the early symptoms will save your life. Carbon monoxide is called the silent killer because it has no smell and no taste - you can’t see it, so you don’t know it’s there. Some people could be getting poisoned now, so we need to get the message out and stop innocent victims from being killed.”

For more information, visit www.gassaferegister.co.uk