The CO Research Trust has awarded a research grant to help improve the understanding and minimise the consequences of Carbon Monoxide (CO) exposure during pregnancy.

Foetal and neonatal death along with congenital malformations and neurological problems can occur with moderate to severe maternal exposure to CO. Studies also conclude that at lower levels of CO, adverse outcomes for the baby cannot be excluded.

The CO Research Trust, in partnership with the Gas Distribution Networks (GDNs) have already funded a study which seeks to understand the scale of the problem of CO exposure in pregnancy. It is also looking at what is required to happen to protect pregnant women and their unborn children. This study is ongoing.

The new project will investigate the levels of CO exposure that may be harmful and what the appropriate treatment pathways might be. Each study will help inform the other. The new project will be undertaken by iPiP, a consortium of public health practitioners, in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University.

Hilary Wareing, Director and project lead for iPiP said: “Surprisingly little is known about this area currently. There is no protocol for the identification of pregnant women who have been exposed to CO. Nor is there a defined treatment pathway for them. This project seeks to support development in both these areas.”

Washout of CO from foetal blood takes longer than in adults. This and the lower partial pressure of oxygen in foetal blood and the relative hypoxia, increases the effects of foetal exposure.

Studies have reported associations with preterm delivery, low birthweight, congenital malformations, sudden infant death, and neuro-developmental problems. These symptoms can be attributed to pregnancy itself e.g., nausea, vomiting, fatigue and headache.

Midwives are identifying pregnant women with unexplained raised levels when conducting routine CO breath tests. Discussions with midwives has revealed that environmental exposure from faulty appliances has, in some cases, been the cause of the raised levels identified in women.

Head of Charitable Operations at the CO Research Trust Adrian McConnell said: “This is a critical area of research which we are committed to supporting. It is hoped that the results of these studies will help to save lives by working towards preventing exposure to CO and gaining a better understanding of treatments for those who have been exposed.”

More information about the project can be found on here. The results of the report will be available in late March 2022.

- Ends -

Notes to editors

About the CO Research Trust

The CO Research Trust (formerly the Gas Safety Trust) is a registered charity which was established in 2005. The vision of the charity is a world where people are not exposed to carbon monoxide (CO).

For more information please contact

Natalie Fleck

CO Research Trust

Follow us: @COResearchTrust

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