Faulty appliances, carbon monoxide poisoning and accidental death
Every year there are approximately 50 accidental deaths in England and Wales caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Frightening as this statistic is, often it is forgotten that people who survive exposure to carbon monoxide can suffer severe injury as a consequence; in particular, anoxic brain injury i.e. caused by lack of oxygen.
Carbon monoxide is a by product of combustion, most commonly found in household gas appliances such as boilers and cookers. It can be odourless and therefore detecting its presence is often difficult.
Carbon monoxide binds tightly to the haemoglobin in the blood stream, the result of which is a reduction in oxygen circulating to the major organs around the body. The brain is particularly vulnerable and damage can occur when the brain is starved of oxygen which can lead to disturbances in memory, language, cognition, mood and behaviour.
Often it is the case that individuals presenting to their doctor do not know the cause or potential severity of their symptoms. Doctors can struggle to make a diagnosis as classic symptoms such as headache, nausea and vomiting can be caused by many other illnesses. When exposure is severe, often deterioration can occur rapidly, resulting in seizures, coma or death. It is therefore crucial that doctors are able to recognise the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and act quickly to prevent fatalities and the development of brain injury.
Prevention is the key to reducing the number of people affected and claims coming into effect. Simple measures such as fitting a Carbon Monoxide alarm that meets British or European standards can make the difference between life and death. Employing a reputable and registered engineer to carry out work on all fuel-burning appliances and similarly a suitable qualified engineer to carry out works on gas appliances are other simple steps that can help reduce the risk of exposure.
Increasing public awareness will encourage people to adopt measures such as these and will hopefully see a reduction in the level of deaths and brain injury following exposure.
Should you require any assistance with any personal injury claim involving brain injury, please contact one of the members of the Serious Injury team.