After two years of turmoil, we’re all looking forward to a summer getaway. With travel chaos hitting the airlines and the cost of living crisis changing the usual vacation plans, many of us may be holidaying a little differently this year. This means exposure to safety issues you may have never previously considered, such as Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Legionella bacteria.
Both CO and Legionella can be deadly. CO is a natural gas created by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. According to the Department of Health and Social Care, in the UK, CO poisoning accounts for an average of 50 recorded deaths a year in the home and up to 4,000 medical visits. Crucially, Carbon Monoxide has no smell, no taste and no colour, making it extremely hard to detect. Symptoms are very similar to coronavirus, flu or food poisoning.
Legionella bacteria is the cause of the potentially fatal form of pneumonia, Legionnaires’ disease. It is contracted by inhaling tiny water droplets from infected systems and can lurk in a number of places, including air conditioning units, showers, taps, hoses, hot tubs and spa baths. With symptoms similar to coronavirus, it has a mortality rate of around 12% and a seasonal rise in cases from June to October.
Jerry Whiteley, Technical Manager for the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) explains the risks, “While you have full control over the maintenance and use of your plumbing and heating systems at home, how do you know that appliances and water systems in holiday accommodation have been adequately maintained, or used correctly by the previous occupants?
“Heat waves, such as those being experienced across the UK and Europe increase the risks of Legionella, as in the right conditions, the bacteria will grow rapidly in water temperatures between 20-45°C. Additionally, many people don’t realise that the dangers of CO don’t end with gas appliances such as boilers. All portable gas or fuel burning appliances, as well as engines and BBQs can emit Carbon Monoxide too.”
The CIPHE offers the following tips for staying safe:
- All landlords in the UK (including for holiday lets) must have gas safety checks annually, and should provide confirmation of a valid gas safety certificate on request.
- UK Landlords also have a duty of care to protect you from Legionella.
- Wherever you are holidaying abroad or closer to home, the best protection from CO is to take an electronic portable Carbon Monoxide alarm, which will make a noise if Carbon Monoxide is detected.
- If you have a battery-powered CO alarm, make sure batteries are fully charged prior to going away.
- If you are barbequing, remember to NEVER take a previously lit BBQ inside, as both lit and dying coals can emit CO. This advice stands whether it’s a house, flat, tent, caravan, camper van or boat. Deadly fumes can build in seconds in confined spaces.
- If visiting a property that has not been used for several weeks or months, open the taps for five minutes to clear any water that has been sitting stagnant in pipework.
- If you are staying in a property with a hot tub, do check the water quality and the general condition of the tub before you use it. The water should be dosed correctly with chemicals to deal with waterborne bacteria or contaminants, and the tub should be in a good state of repair – if in doubt check with the owner.
If you need to find out more on the dangers of Legionella and Carbon Monoxide, visit the CIPHE’s website at www.ciphe.org.uk/public/