Toxins are becoming an ever increasing holiday complaint! Whether it is by land, sea or air, we are hearing from increasing numbers of UK holidaymakers affected by their exposure to toxins whilst on holiday. These same holidaymakers also tell us of how their tour operator fails to react adequately to the complaints of their exposure.
One of the main problem areas concerns the issue of Carbon Monoxide (CO) or Carbon Monoxide+ (CO+). The latter is fast becoming the recognised 'symbol' of the extent of the problem and represents the potential to be exposed to a range of toxins from combusted fuel products.
To demonstrate why this is important to UK and European holidaymakers, we need only reflect on the sad and continuing case of the Shepherd children who were overcome by CO on Corfu in 2006.
For a number of years, we have worked with CO & CO+ Campaigners in a call on governments to act and regulate this important area. For many years we have witnessed the soundbite and handwringing politic of Westminster, whilst victim after victim is paraded before the great and the good (mostly the fuel & holiday lobbies) to promote the message that 'something must be done'.
We have observed that whilst many CO projects are laudable (we do not criticise these projects at all - many are formed from the excellent imagination and efforts of victims and survivors), they are often small in scale and would take many decades to reach their own individual tipping point; we believe passionately that Regulation is the key to CO & CO+ (Regulation either stands on its own or is worked alongside and incorporated with transparently and inclusively drafted Standards - we believe that voluntary initiatives have a value but the problem of CO & CO+ is too great to rely solely on initiatives without Regulation to protect Consumers).
In 2013, we joined with our fellow Campaigners and supported drafted Amendments to the Energy Bill.
These Amendments were ambitious, but were balanced and fair and would have imported a greater cohesive action on the scourge of CO.
Regrettably, despite our best efforts, very few Members of Parliament or Members of the House of Lords supported our call to promote the Amendments; this despite the fact that many approached apparently hold out an interest on the issue of CO!
However, out of all the Amendments, just one survived! This Amendment, promoted by The Baroness Finlay, created a clause that empowers the Secretary of State, at his discretion, to create a legal obligation that Landlords must fit CO Alarms; remember, this is only a possibility!
When the Energy Bill was passed, this created a parliamentary and legal obligation on the Secretary of State for the UK Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to consider the clause within the Act. As a result, the DCLG created a Consultation to consider the issue. When we read the Amendment, we were concerned that a very narrow interpretation would be applied to what constitutes 'Landlord' and 'Premises' and the real risk that UK holidaymakers would travel from their own 'protected' property, to their 'unprotected' holiday property; we stated that:
- Section 150 of the Energy Act and its definitions would allow the Secretary of State to regulate holiday properties and ensure that holidaymakers were protected;
- We estimated that some 11.7 people die and 520 suffered injury each year from their exposure to CO within their holiday properties (this estimate has never been challenged - these figures do not take into account the wider issue of CO+);
- We further estimated that the cost of treatment from CO arising from holiday properties to the National Health Service (NHS) & UK Taxpayers was £5.2m per annum (again this has never been challenged and across the then EU 27 Member States we estimated this figure to be £140m or 168m Euro per annum);
- We argued that the fact that the fuel and landlord lobbies were receiving a 'State Aid' through NHS treatment as a result of any failures they committed was potentially illegal and that a balance needed to be sought through regulation;
- We estimated that any fear of a burdensome cost to industry was misplaced and calculated that the cost to a landlord in holiday properties for the installation and management of CO alarms amounted to £10 to £20 per annum (taking into account capital, insurance deductions and management costs);
Given these very strong arguments, we consider that the time has come for the Secretary of State to address the imbalance on CO; one death or one injury is one too many, this simple measure is not only proportionate, but one of which whose time has come!
To read our full report to the DCLG, please follow this link