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Substandard building work causes carbon monoxide leak

By Katie Anderson on July 17, 2012

A Hertfordshire couple has criticised housing developer Taylor Wimpey after being exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

Gerald and Doreen Lee bought their new-build home in Winthorpe Gardens, Borehamwood, just five years ago. Regrettably, Taylor Wimpey had neglected to install the correct flue for the central heating boiler, meaning that carbon monoxide leaked into the property.

During a routine inspection of the property last week, Taylor Wimpey discovered the mistake. Engineers disabled the boiler and ordered new parts to correct the installation error. Unfortunately for Mr and Mrs Lee, who were told they would be without heating and hot water for up to two weeks, the damage might already have been done.

The couple were tested for carbon monoxide poisoning last week and blood tests revealed low levels of the gas in their system.

78-year-old Mr Lee, who suffered a stroke in 2011, explained: “Recently, I have been getting dizzy in the morning and often feel nauseous, but I just attributed it to old age. Now I’ve realised it fits the symptoms of low level carbon monoxide poisoning perfectly – and that’s a very scary thought”.

Mrs Lee, 74, added: “I am constantly scared now. It’s a very dangerous thing to be exposed to, so I am now just terrified”. Mrs Lee went on to remark that she and her husband no longer feel safe in the property. She also criticised Taylor Wimpey for failing to resolve the problem in good time.

According to the Gas Safety Trust, 25 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning in 2010/2011. The number of fatalities caused by exposure to the gas is on the rise, but non-fatal exposures have declined in recent years. Devon, Somerset and Staffordshire are among the most dangerous places in Britain for carbon monoxide exposure.

The Gas Safety Trust also revealed in a report last year that people aged over seventy are up to five times more likely to die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning than any other age group. The report identified financial constraints as the main cause of carbon monoxide exposure. In Mr and Mrs Lee’s case, however, the problem appears to have been caused by substandard building work. It is not known whether the property had a carbon monoxide alarm fitted.