Adrian McConnell, Head of Charitable Operations, the CO Research Trust

2021 has been a big year for us at the CO Research Trust. Our complete re-brand in June and launch of our new website demonstrated a significant investment by the Trust and a huge public commitment to driving forward the broader understanding of CO exposure across many different areas.

We’ve been delighted by the response across the wide range of areas in which we work, from academia, research, charity, housing, and emergency services, to name a few.

What we’ve heard from our stakeholders and colleagues is a clear intention to work collaboratively to move the knowledge, understanding and awareness of CO forward.

This year has seen the fruition of some exciting research projects. In August we announced the launch of a new series of lectures to showcase the work of leading researchers in the field of carbon monoxide (CO) from all over the world, which we have funded.

The lecture series kicked off with a presentation from Dr Andrew Spowage of Queen Mary’s University London. Andrew presented his White Paper looking at the risks associated with CO poisoning in general aviation, which attracted a lot of interest across this specialist sector.

In the last 20 years there have been 87 air accidents relating to CO poisoning reported in the UK, USA, and Australia. Air accidents tend to be catastrophic, with the potential for significant loss of life and collateral damage. His project demonstrated how vital it is that safety is improved in this area.

We followed this lecture with a presentation from PhD candidate Beth Cheshire from Lancaster University, who’s work sought to investigate the effects associated with longer term (chronic) low-level CO exposure and the effects on the brain among older adults. Knowledge in this area is currently extremely limited.

Beth’s study found that the negative effect of advancing age on cognition was worsened by greater overall CO exposure. In other words, prolonged low-level CO exposure has a negative impact on cognition, an effect that is worse the older you are. This study was the first of its kind and has paved the way for further work in this area.

In November we launched the Solid Fuel and CO Review which was carried out by Dr James Hanlon of the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM). During his lecture he presented findings which suggest that data is still the most significant issue in the reporting of CO incidents related solid fuel. This is an issue which may be putting thousands of lives at risk. The research team outlined a clear pathway forward to enable the collection and management of this data.

In the new year we will be hearing from Euan Sandilands from the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) who has been working on a six-year project to help understand the awareness of CO among healthcare professionals. His presentation will take place on 20th January at 3pm.

Look out for some Q&A sessions with some of our leading researchers in 2022, as we grill them on their findings.

No 2021 roundup would be complete without of course mentioning the impact of COVID19, which continues to impact several of our research projects. We are hopeful that 2022 will allow these to resume and get back on track.

We have many projects that are currently ongoing, including a novel project being undertaken by the University of Hertfordshire. As part of a three-year PhD project, they are carrying out an evaluation of chromodynamic pupillometry as a possible biomarker of CO exposure.

The study will identify and measure the effects of low-level CO exposure on the highly sensitive nerves of the brain and eyes in healthy volunteers. The aim is to be able to provide clinically important information that can immediately be made use of by neurologists, ophthalmologists, and other healthcare professionals.

Our aim for 2022 is continuing to work with leading researchers to find and fund more innovative and groundbreaking research which continues to improve our understanding of CO exposure, in different settings.

With this in mind we have reviewed our grants process and we will be announcing some exciting changes early in the new year.

In 2021 we were fortunate to gain several new Trustees in the form of Baroness Finlay who took over as Chair, Professor Shirley Price, Bruce Allen and John O’Grady who each bring with them a wealth of experience and knowledge.

Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to our wonderful Trustees for giving their time and knowledge freely, and to the CO Research Trust team. Working together in 2022 we will continue to take huge strides forward in understanding CO exposure and how to reduce its impact.

Adrian McConnell, Head of Charitable Operations, The CO Research Trust
Adrian McConnell, Head of Charitable Operations, The CO Research Trust