Penzance chimney sweep Don Rowe warns of the dangers of carbon monoxide - the Silent Killer
MASTER chimney sweep Don Rowe is warning people in west Cornwall to be alert to the dangers of carbon monoxide – the deadly gas that "can kill you quickly and without warning".
Gill Adams, from St Ives, and her three dogs died in her home in February and her son has already backed our Making A Noise About The Silent Killer campaign.
Three others – an elderly couple and their daughter – died two weeks later in Camborne.
Last week we told how one Heamoor mother of three was told she was an hour from death after her own carbon monoxide (CO) nightmare.
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Now chimney sweep Don Rowe has added his voice to our campaign to raise awareness, encourage people to buy CO alarms, and also to check their boilers, flues and chimneys.
Mr Rowe, who has been a chimney sweep since 1982, said: "I have seen first-hand the danger of carbon monoxide in the home, it is a deadly poisonous gas which has no smell, no taste, it is invisible.
"It is given off when burning fossil fuels – wood, coal, gas, oil – it makes no difference, they can all kill you.
"Normally it passes out the top of the chimney. But if that chimney is unsuitable, broken or needs sweeping, is blocked, or leaking into a floor space, roof space, cupboard, adjoining chimney – yours or your neighbours – someone could end up dead.
"If the appliance is faulty or in need of servicing, if the ventilation to the fire is not correct, the gas can enter your home. Remember, you cannot see it, smell it or taste it. It can kill you quickly and without warning."
Mr Rowe, a longstanding member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, said that only last week he had seen another incident that could have ended in tragedy.
He said: "On Thursday of last week I swept an unused chimney in a bedroom. It produced nine dead adult crows plus a mountain of nest material. This means that they had died soon after they entered the chimney.
"The CO had filtered through from a neighbour's chimney and had been going on for years, but the density of the nest material in the chimney prevented the ingress of poisonous gas from entering the bedroom where [the customer's] 16-year-old daughter sleeps.
"I removed the blockage and advised the installation of appropriate CO metering. If I had not been a responsible, registered Guild Sweep doing a proper job, that beautiful girl would be dead now. Please, please don't fall into that trap. Make no mistake, it can happen."
Mr Rowe said younger people are particularly at risk as children absorb CO 25 per cent faster than adults.
He also pointed out that reported deaths from CO are just "the tip of the iceberg".
He said: "The other 99 per cent of sufferers manifest as lethargy, headaches, feeling tired and sick, cannot concentrate – especially at study or school – and a general lack of energy, all of which makes you completely unsafe to drive, since it remains in the body for up to three days."
Mr Rowe said some risks were not even widely known – for instance that using coal or smokeless fuels in wood burners can lead to a greater build-up of soot and as a result a far greater CO danger.
He said: "Ask your registered Guild sweep for advice on any safety aspect but please don't die of ignorance."