Carbon monoxide: dangers from low-level exposure
08 November 2018
As the cold weather sets in, health and emergency services across the EU are seeing a spike in the number of reported carbon monoxide (CO) leaks. We usually hear of the more tragic or large scales cases on the news. However, the public also needs to be aware of the dangers of continuous low-level exposure to CO and the possible long-term health risks associated with it. This was the focus of a workshop I co-hosted with Marian Harkin MEP and COGDEM - the Council of Gas Detection and Environmental Monitoring this week.
Exposure to continuous low levels of CO gas doesn´t just happen in our homes. It could be in old buildings, community centres, on boats, schools, churches, and even shisha bars. The best way to minimise the risk to the public is advance planning. There must be a new range of measures introduced that would see more training of healthcare professionals to identify symptoms, pass relevant information to the fire service as well as ensuring the availability of proper equipment for emergency services to be able to test for CO poisoning on site.
There have been some positive developments. Germany has announced a new national initiative to map instances of CO poisoning. A new international network called ICORN is looking into the gaps in standard terminology, identifying CO risks and issues surrounding cross-country best practise sharing among researchers, government officials, industry experts, medical and emergency response agencies . And it was welcome news that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding a global study into deaths linked to CO since the 1990s. Results are expected in 2019, but it is expected the data will allow governments to better plan and fund CO poisoning responses.