Gas Safety Trust announces funding for Public Health England's Coroners' Carbon Monoxide testing pilot study

For immediate release – Friday 5 June 2015

The Gas Safety Trust (GST), this week, confirmed funding for Public Health England’s carbon monoxide (CO) pilot study, which will develop a protocol for coroners to test for CO at post-mortem.

The 2011 All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group (APPCOG) report identified a key role for coroners to support increased detection of CO poisoning in England and Wales. The report recommended that “the Government should ensure that all coroners’ post-mortems routinely test for carboxyhaemoglobin (COHb) levels”

The report also acknowledged the difficulty for coroners in recognising CO as a possible cause of death and suggested a potential under-diagnosis of CO poisoning by clinicians. Coroners are in a unique position to identify the circumstances leading to a CO fatality, including the source of CO, where it is located, and the behaviour of those involved.

This study will take the important first steps towards obtaining a more complete estimate of the number of CO deaths by testing at post-mortem.

However, before a national data collection exercise can be undertaken, this pilot will be carried out so the procedure can be defined, developed and implemented. The aim of the study is to establish a protocol for testing and reporting of CO poisoning at post-mortem in England and Wales. 

Chris Bielby, Gas Safety Trust Chairman said:

“This study will begin to address the longstanding barrier to understanding the number of fatalities caused by carbon monoxide poisoning in England and Wales. Many people agree that carbon monoxide poisoning is under-diagnosed by both medics and coroners due to its characteristics.

The only way to really know is for CO levels to be tested at post-mortem. Hopefully this pilot will develop a protocol that will allow us to reach the true scale of the problem in England and Wales.”

Dr Giovanni Leonardi, Head of the Environmental Epidemiology Group at PHE’s Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, said:

“This is an important pilot study which will develop a method for establishing how often CO poisoning is being missed by clinicians and the impact this has on CO being identified as a cause of death. We will need to share this information with coroners before they will consider wider testing for CO at post-mortem.

“We will also need to assess the extra burden wider testing would have on staff, including pathologists and laboratory workers.

“The pilot will show how feasible it is for coroners to conduct extended testing for CO at post-mortem and will help Public Health England’s understanding of accidental CO poisoning.”


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) which happens when there is insufficient oxygen caused by poor ventilation.

About Public Health England
Public Health England (PHE) was established on 1 April 2013 to bring together public health specialists from more than 70 organisations into a single public health service. PHE protects and improves the nation's health and wellbeing, and reduces health inequalities.

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,

For further information please contact:

Adrian McConnell                    
Trust Manager
Gas Safety Trust
T: 020 7706 5111
M: 07792 219649
Follow us: @GasSafetyTrust

Visit GST’s CO Portal: