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Tuesday 25th June 2019

Carbon monoxide poisoning figures higher than reported

18th April 2011

The BBC has learned the number of deaths and illnesses caused by carbon monoxide poisoning could be much higher than official data suggests.


According to recent Health and Safety Executive figures, deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning are lower than they were ten years ago.

However a study has suggested that because medical staff do not carry out routine tests for poisoning, many cases could be missed.

The HSE stated that it was aware there was "under-reporting in all health and safety matters".

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuel burns faultily and leaks from boilers and gas appliances.

It has no smell or taste, so people are often unaware of the danger.

In the year ending June 2010, the HSE said four deaths and 117 illnesses were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning in the home.

However, the Gas Safety Trust charity said their research suggested the true figure could be far higher.

The research involved the charity looking at a pilot which involved ambulance crews in London who carried five carbon monoxide testing kits over the course of a year.

They found 83 people who had suffered from poisoning in London - nearly as many as was recorded for the whole of the UK in 2008-09. 

Paramedic Andy Humber, who helped to co-ordinate the pilot, said: "We were shocked by the numbers."

"We used two types of testing devices, one used on the pulse and one to test levels of carbon monoxide in the breath."

The pilot is now being carried out in Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, and the charity said that if similar results were seen around the country then the official data would "skyrocket".

The trust said it believed that carbon monoxide cases were not being picked up because UK pathologists do not carry out routine checks for poisoning after death.

It added: "Overseas research suggests the gaps in our knowledge could be masking significant numbers of carbon monoxide poisoning incidents."


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