Meeting held to explore possible link between carbon monoxide and dementia

For immediate release – Thursday 26 May 2016

On Wednesday 25 May 2016, the NIHR Clinical Research Network: West Midlands and the Gas Safety Trust held a roundtable discussion in Birmingham to consider carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and the elderly and potential areas for research funding.

The meeting looked in particular at CO in relation to the impact on peoples’ cognitive function as well as potential links to dementia.

Chaired by Dr Susan Bews, an independent Gas Safety Trust trustee, the event brought together local clinicians and researchers who may have ideas for research in this area.

The group heard from a number of speakers including Afroza Ahmed (Founder of Dying to Keep Warm), Professor Peter Crome (Clinical Research Network: West Midlands Clinical Lead for Dementia) and Gordon Lishman (Chair of Gas Safe Charity and former Director General, Age Concern).

Attendees identified specific topics of interest and it was agreed that further discussions will take place to develop research proposals.

Although CO is well-known as a toxic gas that can be harmful to humans, it is also naturally produced within the body in small quantities, where it plays a number of important roles such as helping to regulate blood pressure. In the brain, CO acts as a ‘chemical messenger’, helping nerve cells to communicate with each other.

Over 800,000 people in the UK have a diagnosis of dementia, with 1 in 20 people over 60 affected and as many as 1 in 5 of those over 80. Symptoms of dementia include memory impairment and cognitive impairment such as effects on language, motor skills and recognition. These symptoms are similar to those displayed by people who have been poisoned by CO.

Dr Susan Bews, Gas Safety Trust said:

"We had a lively and stimulating debate which the Gas Safety Trust hopes will lead to concrete, valuable and feasible research proposals. It is clear that there is a lot that we still do not understand about a possible link between carbon monoxide poisoning and dementia.

Elderly people represent one of the most vulnerable and at risk sections of society. With Public Health England projections suggesting that over 1m people will have a diagnosis of dementia by 2025, it is clear that this discussion is both timely and urgently needed.

"It was very encouraging to hear the enthusiasm for further research into understanding the risks of low level CO for the elderly and particularly the real commitment across a wide range of professionals to work together to reduce the risks for the more vulnerable, for example those with dementia" .


Notes to editors

About Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a gas formed during the incomplete combustion of any carbon-based or fossil fuel (e.g. gas, coal, oil, wood, charcoal etc).

About the Gas Safety Trust
The Gas Safety Trust, established in 2005 as a registered charitable body, has become the UK’s leading fuel safety charity with the key objectives of further improving fuel safety for the public and industry throughout the United Kingdom and reducing the incidents of death and serious injury from carbon monoxide exposure. GST is currently seeking grant applicants via The Gas Safety Trust is generously funded by the gift aided profits of CORGI Services Limited,

About the GST CO Portal
The Gas Safety Trust (GST) has created an online carbon monoxide (CO) portal, which is the central repository for data and information relating to CO in the UK. The portal was launched in January 2015. The Portal has three main sections Legislation and Standards, which include information on Regulations, Standards, Guidance and Codes of Practice, Academic References, which is a searchable reference library of academic papers relating to CO and Data and Documents, which contains reports and other general information on CO,

About the NIHR Clinical Research Network
In 2006, the Department of Health set up the National Institute for Health Research to create a world-class health system within the NHS, and the Clinical Research Network is part of this wider organisation. At the centre of what they do is the Portfolio – a collection of high-quality clinical studies that benefit from the infrastructure provided by the Clinical Research Network. Many of these studies are Randomised Controlled Trials – considered by many in the medical profession to be the most robust form of clinical trial – although they also support other types of well-designed research.

For further information please contact:

Adrian McConnell                   
Trust Manager
Gas Safety Trust

T: 020 7706 5111
M: 07792 219649
CO Portal: