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Carbon Monoxide poisoning costs £178 million a year in health costs, report says

A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group and lobbyist Policy Connect has set out the impact of a lack of awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning amongst doctors. The report Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Saving Lives, Advancing Treatment, makes 26 different recommendations at improving the situation.

The report’s 18 contributors, all health specialists say: “Coordinated, collaborative action, as specified by the recommendations in this report, would provide a basis for the eradication of CO poisoning in the UK and also a model for how public services should tackle other public health issues in future. If the recommendations made here are not acted upon, an untold number of people will continue to be at risk from CO poisoning.”

Current health figures show that every year at least 4,000 people in England and Wales attend emergency departments as the result of accidental CO poisoning.

A key finding is the lack of understanding about the link between low level chronic CO exposure and long-term effects on an individual’s health - for example, its impact on diseases of the cardiovascular and neurological system.

A further concern of the report is that pregnant women are at high risk of not being identified as being poisoned, since many of the symptoms are very similar to pregnancy indicators such as nausea.

The report provides a call to action for the Government and its agencies to develop better ways for health professionals to spot and treat patients who have been exposed to CO poisoning, including the importance of CO screening for pregnant women.

The authors call for ‘robust protocols’ to be put in place across the public services, to ensure that cases of CO poisoning do not go undetected. They also call for standardised training on CO poisoning throughout undergraduate and postgraduate medical education and the establishing of specialist referral clinics to support and treat people following CO exposure.

Paramedics particularly should receive enhanced training to enable them to spot the signs of CO poisoning more quickly, the report says. It recommends that emergency service personnel should be issued with indoor air CO monitoring devices and that emergency departments should adopt validated, rapid triage systems to target of patients exhibiting symptoms traditionally associated with CO exposure, such as headaches, dizziness, and flu-like symptoms.

The medics also underline previous calls from MPs to require landlords in England and Wales to install CO alarms in all private and public rented sector properties that contain a fuel-burning appliance of any kind, not just solid fuel appliances, as is currently the case.

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