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Six East Ham people suffer carbon monoxide poisoning from barbecue

16:30 04 January 2013

Four young children were among six people taken to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning after a woman used a barbecue indoors to dry clothes.

The incident, which could have been fatal, ocurred on Wednesday afternoon when an elderly woman was drying some washing in the kitchen of a house on Hockley Avenue in East Ham.

To speed the drying up she used her garden barbecue and when it had stopped smoking she carried it into the kitchen and placed it near the back door. She then placed the washing around it and left the back door open.

She then left the property, leaving her two daughters-in-law and four grandchildren in the house. Two of the children were in the living room and two were upstairs asleep. After she left one of the occupants closed the back door.

Later one of the women called a relative saying she felt unwell. She visited the house and noticed a strange smell and opened the back door and took the barbecue outside. When she re-entered the house one of the children collapsed.

An ambulance was called and two women and four children, aged four, three, two and a 10-month-old, were taken to hospital. All six have been discharged.

Firefighters, including a rapid response ‘hazardous materials’ team, were called to the scene but the family had escaped by the time they arrived on the scene. Crews ventilated the home and used specialist monitoring equipment to check that the poisonous gas had dispersed before handing the incident over to the police.

Fire chiefs have branded the behaviour ‘dangerous’ and the London Fire Brigade is urging people to get a carbon monoxide alarm as well as smoke alarms. The warning comes at the same time as a Coronation Street storyline about carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty boiler.

Dave Brown, London Fire Brigade‘s Head of Operations, Prevention and Response, said: “In my 28 year career I have never heard of anybody using a barbecue to dry clothes let alone using one indoors.

“Never, ever bring a lit or smouldering barbecue indoors, not only is it a serious fire risk but it also omits carbon monoxide which is a poisonous gas that can kill or seriously injure.

“We would also urge people to invest in a carbon monoxide alarm. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, with at least 50 deaths recorded nationally every year. Despite this, the majority of people still do not have a CO alarm in their home.”

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