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“CO Be Alarmed!” campaign in the European Parliament to raise awareness on the dangers of carbon monoxide


29 Jan 2013


Health & Consumers
  • British MEP Linda McAvan hosted a week-long exhibition on Carbon Monoxide in collaboration with CoGDEM*
  • A seminar entitled ‘Stop the silent killer: European approaches’ brought together victim groups, firefighters, poison control centers, consumer associations and International and EU institutions
  • Facts:

         - In 2011, 459 carbon monoxide incidents were, reported in Belgium, which resulted in 1003 individual intoxications and 32 deaths;

         - Between 1 September 2012 and 20 January 2013 alone, 675 incidents were reported in France, being responsible for the intoxication of 2192 people and 26 deaths;

          - In Poland, between October 2011 and March 2012, 2690 incidents were registered, which involved 1775 intoxications and 106 deaths;     

          - In the UK, authorities report approximately 4000 intoxications and 50 deaths, annually.


28 January 2013, Brussels. MEP Linda McAvan (UK/S&D) hosted last week the “CO - Be Alarmed!” exhibition in an effort to raise awareness on the dangers of carbon monoxide in the European Parliament.  “Know the signs, know how to prevent CO from escaping from your heating appliances.  This could save your life!”, she stressed. 



Mrs McAvan also organised the Seminar ‘Stop the silent killer: European approaches to Carbon Monoxide’ in cooperation with MEP Jim Higgins (Ireland/EPP). The event gathered officials from the European Commission, WHO/Europe, ,experts from the UK, France, Poland, Belgium, European associations, and civil society.



CO: higher mortality than HIV/AIDS or skin cancer

Also referred to as the “silent killer” (EN), “le tueur silencieux” (FR), “de sluipmordenaar” (NL), this odorless, colourless, tasteless gas kills more people than HIV/AIDS and skin cancer, according to WHO/Europe.  And yet carbon monoxide does not receive the same level of attention from regulators.



Mr Peter Bischoff-Everding from the European Commission’s DG SANCO presented upcoming policy initiatives which would address some aspects of the Carbon Monoxide problem.   Initiatives include revising and harmonising the standards for CO detectors, improving hotel safety, and making specific labeling of indoor barbeques mandatory.




Mrs McAvan believes much more regulatory attention is needed. Harmonising the standard for detectors is one thing, she said, but we need to make that the law.  “There are good quality detectors out there, but the fact that not all detectors comply with even the basic EN standard before being placed on the EU market, is a disgrace”.   Open-flue boilers (also known as instant water heaters) and indoor barbecues were also underlined as very important sources of CO in homes causing a high proportion of deaths in Europe.



McAvan stated that she would continue to put pressure on the Commission to come forward with a coherent plan.



In the mean time, she was keen to use the event to share best practices in awareness raising from different Member States.  Dr Maren Hermanns-Clausen from the Freiburg Poison Centre gave an overview of the German federal system of prevention and response to CO intoxications. Mr Krzysztof Biskup from the Polish Scientific and Research Centre for Fire Protection made a presentation of Poland’s recent initiatives and well targeted prevention campaigns. Mr Chris Bielby of the Gas Industry Safety Group and Zoe Forman from the Council for Gas Detection & Environmental Monitoring (CoGDEM) presented the UK’s positive results obtained through wide stakeholder engagement, efficient communication campaigns and focus on CO alarms. The tragic personal account from Gordon Samuel (Katie Haines Memorial Trust) provided a reminder that carbon monoxide can affect anyone.



Better data and exchange of best practices

Linda McAvan underlined the need for a forum for authorities from Member States to share best practices on this deadly, poisonous gas.  “We need better data and more targeted campaigns.  If we had better data, we would realise that the problem is even bigger than we thought as many cases go unreported”.



Concluding the seminar ‘Stop the silent killer: European approaches to Carbon Monoxide’, Mrs McAvan urged the European Commission to urgently assess internally what is being done - and what more could be done - at European level, and encouraged Member States to work together and seek a platform within which to discuss and address the problems related to CO.



Note to editors

CoGDEM is the Council for Gas Detection and Environmental Monitoring, a UK-based not-for-profit association of companies or individuals active in the business of gas detection. The Council has been supporting CO awareness campaigns in the UK since 2007.  The current campaign – “CO-Be Alarmed!” – is in place since 2009. CoGDEM provides the campaign with technical support and advice, alarms for competitions and population categories at risk, public speaking and radio interviews, copywriting for websites and press releases, social media support and a free CO telephone helpline.

 *Council of Gas Detection and Environmental Monitoring


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