THE Government has rejected calls for stringent new regulations on carbon monoxide checks in a bid to avoid more fatalities this winter.

Thousands of North-East students have already received leaflets warning them about the dangers of the deadly gas, dubbed the silent killer because it is invisible to the naked eye.

But safety campaigners said more needs to be done by the industry and the Government to cut CO deaths.

About 30 to 40 people a year die from breathing the poisonous fumes from badly-maintained or faulty gas heaters or boilers.

The Northern Echo has led a campaign for nearly five years to raise awareness of the danger.

CO Gas Safety, which lobbies the Government for better safety measures, wants routine tests on all appliances for carbon monoxide leaks.

It claims that gas workers and fitters are not obliged to carry equipment that detects for carbon monoxide, even if the people who have called them out are complaining of the symptoms of CO poisoning.

Stephanie Trotter, from the campaign group, said: "Sending someone out to detect carbon monoxide without the correct equipment is like trying to detect radiation without a Geiger counter."

But a spokesman for the Government's Health and Safety Executive said it could not legislate to force people to check for CO emissions.

He said: "There's a variety of sources of carbon monoxide and we don't have jurisdiction over particular aspects involved.

"For example you can get it by burning coal, but you couldn't make coal merchants responsible if you've blocked up your chimney flue and get carbon monoxide backing into your living room."

A survey by Transco revealed that less than 20 per cent of students living in rented accommodation knew who to call if they suspected a gas escape.

The mother of a 19-year-old Durham University student, who died in November 1995 from carbon monoxide in rented accommodation, reiterated the calls for greater awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Margaret Brennan's daughter, Anne, died when a faulty gas appliance filled the bedroom of a house she shared with other students in Durham, with deadly fumes.

Mrs Brennan, from Hetton-le-Hole, in east Durham, said: "I would support anything that can prevent anyone else's life being taken. It's an issue that needs to be put back on the public agenda."

Read more about the Silent Killer campaign here.