Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, non irritating gas that is produced by incomplete combustion of organic material due to insufficient oxygen. Important causes of carbon monoxide poisoning include inhalation of:

  • Smoke in burning buildings
  • Petrol or diesel engine exhaust gases retained in closed spaces
  • Burnt gases from faulty gas or solid fuel appliances used for domestic heating or cooking
  • Burnt gases from gas or solid fuel appliances intended for outdoor use only such as charcoal BBQ or camping stoves

In 2013, there were 40 fatalities and 200 hospital admissions from carbon monoxide exposure [8]. The true incidence is likely to be higher because low level CO toxicity is insidious and may easily be misdiagnosed as flu-like illness, food poisoning or depression.

Learning bite

While the exposure to CO from car fumes may have been reduced due to the introduction of catalytic converters, exposure to car fumes and especially diesel fumes may still have serious acute and chronic health effects.

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