The schools are out and many of us have plans for a big summer getaway. Whether you are braving abroad or holidaying at home, after the last 18 months we all need some time away. With many of us trying something new this year - from camping, to road trips to luxury cottage retreats - an amazing holiday can quickly turn into a nightmare if we are not aware of the hidden dangers such as Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Legionella bacteria.
Jerry Whiteley, Technical Manager for the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) explains, “Unless something goes wrong, we spend very little time thinking about our plumbing and heating systems, especially when on holiday. While you have full control over the maintenance and use of your systems at home, how do you know that appliances in holiday accommodation have been adequately maintained, or used correctly by the previous occupants? Many of us are holidaying differently this year, which means exposure to safety issues you may have never previously considered.”
Carbon Monoxide 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.
While most of us know that appliances such as gas boilers and cookers can emit CO gas and should be serviced regularly, did you know that portable gas or fuel burning appliances, as well as engines and BBQs can emit Carbon Monoxide too? It’s advised that holidaymakers know the risks as all appliances can develop faults, (even when not in use), if not correctly maintained or used.
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 death rate of around 12% and a seasonal rise in cases from June to October.
The growing popularity in hot tubs and spa baths in holiday lets means that there are a number of properties with the potential for outbreaks. Those using holiday homes that have been empty for some time, or reopening hospitality businesses that have been closed due to lockdown, need to be particularly vigilant for the bacteria in their water systems.
Jerry at the CIPHE offers the following tips for staying safe:
- All landlords (including for holiday lets) must have gas safety checks annually, and should provide confirmation of a valid gas safety certificate on request. Landlords also have a duty of care to protect you from Legionella.
- Wherever you are staying, 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, 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.
Find out more information on Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
Find out more information on Legionnaires’ disease.
Suspect a problem? Find a registered plumbing or heating engineer in your area.