Family Warns of Perils of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

6th Dec 2011

It’s known as the silent killer. Starving the body of oxygen and affecting vital functions, every week one person in the UK dies as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

One such victim was 31-year-old Katie Haines, who died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning at her home in Wokingham, Berkshire in December 2009.

Almost two years on from her untimely death, Katie’s family have been speaking out about their devastating loss to highlight the hidden dangers of the highly toxic gas. As her mum, Avril Samuel explains:

“People think carbon monoxide poisoning happens in bedsits or in run-down hotels abroad. Katie’s death shows it happens in the UK – and in greater numbers than people realise.

“It really is the silent killer because there’s no smell and you can’t see it,” said Avril, 60, in an interview with the Daily Mail.

According to figures released by the Department of Health, one person perishes every week in the UK due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, with another 4,000 treated in hospital. But more and more people could be living with the effects without even realising it.

Symptoms – often mistaken for the common flu – include headaches, dizziness, tiredness and nausea. In more serious cases, repeated exposure to carbon monoxide gases can cause depression, chest pains and personality changes, some types of dementia and even death.

An inquest heard how the boiler at the property Katie shared with her husband Richard had been flagged as being ‘at risk’ following an earlier boiler inspection.  However the couple continued to use the faulty boiler, unaware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. Katie died after being overcome by an invisible cloud of carbon monoxide as she took a bath one evening, downing after hitting her head as she fell.

Carbon monoxide gases are produced when fuel that has been lit doesn’t have enough oxygen to burn properly, which causes the highly toxic gas to be produced instead. When it comes to this silent killer, prevention is key. And that means making sure your home is fitted with a carbon monoxide alarm, which, for around £20-£30, can be purchased from any well known high street DIY store.

According to research conducted for the national Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed campaign, almost two thirds of people in the UK don’t have an audible carbon monoxide alarm. Katie’s family hope that by speaking out and sharing their story, it will help raise awareness of the dangers surrounding what has become known as the silent killer.

Katie’s family have set up a charity in her memory, the Katie Haines Memorial Trust, which promotes awareness of carbon monoxide.