Life-saving research into Carbon Monoxide

The Report Carbon Monoxide: From Awareness to Action - Inquiry findings: Detection and Technology is the benchmark for all CO related activities in the UK.

The research project is part of an ongoing study into the levels of CO found in the home, led by Dr Andy Shaw in the University’s School of the Built Environment within the BEST Research Institute. The initial work was with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and West Midlands Fire Service and Coventry City Council to develop a methodology to identify the amount of CO poisoning going unreported back in 2011.  More than 27,000 properties were visited in the study in Coventry and Liverpool and, on average, only 10% had a CO alarm installed.  The investigation helped save the lives of people in the two cities after the data loggers picked up dangerous levels of the gas being produced by boilers, cookers and secondary heating appliances.

The findings of the initial study were presented at a dissemination event, hosted at LJMU in 2012 featuring a keynote address from Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, co-Chair of an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Gas Safety Group on carbon monoxide (now called the All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group). The Baroness suggested LJMU establish a dedicated Carbon Monoxide Centre of Excellence due to the highly quality of this work.

The ongoing study within the Centre now uses CO data loggers to build a more detailed picture of the potential low level chronic exposure in dwellings utilising Fire & Rescue Services as trusted messengers to install the loggers and record information about the property with an extended version of their home fire safety check. The team at LJMU also includes academics in Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Psychology and Public Health & Nursing all of which are studying CO related aspects such as establishing how victims are affected and effecting a behavioural change.

The Gas Safety Trust (GST) also awarded a grant to LJMU to expand the study from two city centres to five counties by partnering with five Fire and Rescue Services, Merseyside, Cornwall, Bedfordshire, West Midlands and Oxfordshire. The funding is also supported by an in-kind contribution from the Council for Gas Detection and Environmental Monitoring (CoGDEM) whose members have supplied CO alarms and data loggers to undertake a comprehensive CO investigation covering 75,000 households.

Dr Andy Shaw, CO project Manager said: "The concept of this work is to get a national perspective on the number of people who maybe suffering either acute or chronic poisoning from Carbon Monoxide without being aware and determine the risk factors that may exist both in terms of health impact and in prevention.

“After the initial study was complete I was asked to take part in several CO working groups in Westminster and I’m now a member of the CO+ Science and technology group. This has led to the team collating the body of evidence for the All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group which allowed me to submit LJMU’s research findings on the CO study.”


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