Data surrounding CO

Data surrounding the number of carbon monoxide poisoning and fatalities is a significant issue.

Due to the challenges in the collection of data, we currently do not have a clear picture of the scale of the problem of low level carbon monoxide poisoning.

This means that some people are not receiving the treatment they require and resources are not being directed to where they are needed.

We need to improve the data collection around carbon monoxide poisoning to improve our understanding of the scale of the risk.

Challenges in data collection

Data collection on carbon monoxide poisoning poses several challenges due to the nature of the gas, the symptoms it causes, and other factors.

These are outlined below.

Underreporting of Incidents

The CO Research Trust believe there is significant underreporting of carbon monoxide poisoning incidents. This is either because the symptoms are mild and easily mistaken for other illnesses or because people are unaware of the dangers.


Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as headache and nausea, can be similar to other common illnesses, leading to misdiagnosis.

There is also a need to improve the awareness and understanding of carbon monoxide poisoning among medical professionals.

Lack of Standardised Reporting

Inconsistent reporting standards across regions and healthcare facilities make it challenging to compile comprehensive and comparable data.

The introduction of ICD-11 is a move in the right direction of standardised reporting. The ICD-11 is the eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases. It replaces the ICD-10 as the global standard for recording health information and causes of death.

ICD-11, which is completely electronic, was adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2019. It is a global public good that is free to use and is annually updated.

It also comes with a transparent proposal mechanism that allows experts and users from all over the world to contribute to improving its content.

Below Dr Islam Ibrahim explains how she led the implementation of ICD-11 in the biggest public hospital in Kuwait.

Delayed Onset of Symptoms

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms may not manifest immediately, leading to delayed recognition and treatment.

Incomplete Data on Sources of CO

Identifying the source of carbon monoxide exposure is crucial for prevention, but this information may not always be available or accurate.

Current Research

The Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) has built a catalogue of published materials on carbon monoxide and health covering published materials from 2015 to 2021. This work was funded by the CO Research Trust.

This catalogue provides a rich resource containing 7 years’ worth of material with a wealth of information on the types of research carried out into carbon monoxide over this period, which can be used to identify the key researchers and research, and other, institutions working in this area and the overarching research themes.

This year (2023) the Trust awarded the IOM further funding to continue the project.

The current project is to build on this work, update the existing material, review its usefulness and make it more accessible.

The outputs of this research will be an updated catalogue of published resources, taking into account any feedback and improvements learned from the workshop/discussions with users, and a short annual report, and accompanying paper in a relevant journal.

While this project will provide an overview of the existing research into carbon monoxide, there is still much work to be done in improving the collection of data relating to the scale of poisonings.

Read more about this project here.