Households in Cornwall must do more to protect themselves against the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning following reports that many are not taking the potential dangers seriously enough, an industry body has warned.

Research shows over a third of homeowners still haven’t installed a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, with more than half of those saying they don’t believe detectors are important. A further one in ten could not identify the purpose of a CO alarm.

After a change made in October 2022, regulations state that landlords must ensure a CO alarm is installed in every room which is used as living accommodation and contains any appliance which burns, or is capable of burning, fuel such as gas boilers, oil boilers, wood burning stoves and open fires.

OFTEC, which runs a registration scheme for off gas grid heating technicians, has issued further guidance for households in Cornwall on the steps they should take to protect themselves from carbon monoxide poisoning:

Be Alarmed – CO Alarms should be to British Standard EN 50291 and can typically be purchased for less than £20. Any fuel burning compliance can potentially emit carbon monoxide, which is an odourless gas, making it hard to detect.

Check the batteries – CO alarms should be regularly inspected to ensure they are working properly by pressing the ‘test button’ and carefully clearing out any dust or debris which could impact how they function. You should also check the alarm can be heard in upstairs bedrooms in case people are sleeping when it sounds. To prevent ‘false alarms’, ensure they are located as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Know what to do – if your CO alarm does sound, the advice is to open the windows and leave the room immediately. Once safe, you should contact GasSafe or OFTEC. If you experience any symptoms of CO poisoning, or have vulnerable people in your house, call 999 immediately.

Malcolm Farrow, from OFTEC, said: “The long term effects of CO poisoning can be fatal and devastating. Fortunately, there are simple steps we can all take to protect ourselves. The installation of CO detectors should be viewed with equal importance as having a working smoke alarm.”