Fatal unintentional non-fire-related carbon monoxide poisoning: England and Wales, 1979-2012

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Context. Unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning remains a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in England and Wales. Methods. Study design: observational case series. Data on fatal carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales from 1979 to 2012 were obtained from coroner reports. Data on unintentional non-fire-related carbon monoxide poisoning were extracted and were analysed by year of registration of death, sex, age group, and whether death occurred at a private house, flat, associated garage, or residential caravan ('home'), or elsewhere. Results and discussion. There were 28,944 carbon monoxide-related deaths, of which 82% were male. Deaths increased from 965 (1979) to 1700 (1987), and then fell to 182 (2012). Of these 2208 (64% male) were recorded as unintentional non-fire-related deaths. Annual numbers of these latter deaths fell from 166 in 1979 to 25 in 2012 (i.e. from 3.37 to 0.44 per million population). Some 81 and 92% of such deaths in males and in females, respectively, occurred at 'home'. A clear preponderance of male versus female deaths was seen in the 10-19, 20-39 and 40-64 years age groups, with similar numbers of deaths in males and in females in the younger (<1 and 1-9 year) and higher (65-79 and 80 + years) age groups. A higher proportion of these excess deaths in males occurred outside the deceased's 'home' in those aged 10-19, 20-39 and 40-64 years. Conclusion. Deaths from unintentional non-fire-related carbon monoxide poisoning are now much less common in England and Wales than in earlier years, but remain a cause for concern. Installation and proper maintenance of carbon monoxide alarms in dwellings and outhouses, for example, and education not only of the public, but also of health and other professionals as to the danger posed by carbon monoxide could help prevent such deaths.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-170
Number of pages5
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Annual incidence
  • Age and sex differences
  • Location
  • Prevention CO poisoning
  • UK


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