Letter from Westminster
Posted by Philip Dunne, MP for Ludlow, at 10:59, Mon 21 May 2012:
I shared the horror last month on learning of the death of a young girl camping in the constituency.
While at the time of writing the coroner has yet to confirm their findings, but the assumption of those at the scene is that this was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from a disposable barbecue at the entrance to the family tent.
All four members of the family were affected. The parents recovered at the site, their son was airlifted to Shrewsbury to ensure safe treatment, but their young daughter tragically died at the scene.
The devastating impact on the family can only be imagined for most of us, but all concerned will have been severely affected.
The campsite was at a well known pub in the west of the constituency. The publicans were very involved initially in trying to help the family and in the aftermath researching the problems of carbon monoxide poisoning and seeking to raise awareness of the dangers of disposable barbecues when camping.
I have joined them in this effort. While national statistics are not readily available, a trawl of the internet suggest there appear to have been six deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning from disposable barbecues since last August.
We are generally alert to the fire risks, but many people are much less aware of the danger from fumes from smouldering barbecues, in particular left near tents.
April and May were colder than expected and people may have been tempted to use disposable barbecues to heat tents when camping. This is extremely dangerous.
I am determined to raise public awareness of these risks across the country. I have met four Ministers with responsibility for various aspects including Public Health, Trading Standards, Tourism and Fire & Safety. All agree we need to raise awareness and have agreed to join me in an urgent cross-departmental meeting to take action to protect the public.
A British Standards Institute consultation is underway on the revision of a European Standard, which at present requires products to warn against use of barbecues indoors, without any explanation why. It is likely that people may believe this is due to the risk of fire and may not be aware of the risk of carbon monoxide. I have submitted evidence to this consultation to urge inclusion of prominent warnings of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning, and know Ministers have made similar representations.
I am pressing Government departments and agencies such as the Health Protection Agency, Food Safety Agency and Trading Standards to alert consumers to these risks. I am a member of the Caravan Club, which has the largest network of campsites in the country, and have urged them to raise awareness.
I am also arranging for a charity CO-Awareness to publicise these problems at a meeting for MPs in the House of Commons next month.
This local tragedy has opened my eyes to the unexpected dangers of disposable barbecues. I am determined to play my part in helping others reduce the risk of such an appalling event befalling another family.
So if you are thinking of going camping this summer, and we have many great campsites here in South Shropshire, please remember to keep your camp-fire or disposable barbecue well away from your tent.
Philip Dunne MP