Each year, approximately 400 people in England are admitted to hospital with carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning, resulting in 40-50 deaths. CO exposure can lead to anoxic brain injury.
CO is a colourless and odourless gas, making its presence difficult to detect. It is formed when domestic fuels such as gas, coal, wood and charcoal are burned, and by petrol engines.
When fuel burns in an enclosed room, the oxygen in the room is gradually used up and replaced with carbon dioxide. If carbon dioxide builds up in the air, the fuel is prevented from burning fully and starts releasing carbon monoxide instead.
CO reduces the amount of oxygen which can be carried in the bloodstream, severely reducing the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and limiting the availability of oxygen to the body, with the brain and heart being particularly vulnerable. This can lead to anoxic brain injury. Pregnant women and the foetus are particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of CO.
To prevent CO poisoning Headway has produced a handy list of dos and don’ts, which can be viewed here: https://www.headway.org.uk/prevention-of-carbon-monoxide-poisoning.aspx.
Especially timely is the warning to not place smouldering BBQs in tents following their use during summer festival camping.