CO-Gas Safety’s data of unintentional deaths and injuries from CO from ALL fuels.
Please see and download CO-Gas Safety’s data from 1995 from here.
Please see notes at the bottom of this page re the compilation of the charts etc.
Please also see List of the Named Deaths.
CO-Gas Safety’s data:-
- Has been collected since 1995.
- Has some kind of report, authority (e.g. Solid Fuel Association) or Coroner’s letter to support every entry on its database with regard to the acute deaths from CO.
- Collects CO incidents and deaths from ALL Fuels.
- Tries to check every death with the Coroner concerned and most now help.
- Publishes the names of the dead on the Internet for anyone to check.
- Is the only data to have been validated twice by a statistician, Dr Craggs. Dr Craggs undertook a further inspection of our data in 2016. This makes it the third inspection and validation in 6 years.
- Has had over 22 years of input from a victim based organisation that simply seeks the truth.
- Has a form on our website for the Coroner to fill up after the inquest and which we encourage them to look at before the inquest in order to think about what evidence they need to call at the inquest (e.g. was there a CO alarm and was it to EN 50291, was it in date and did it work?).
Please see comment on our work by Nigel Hawkes, eminent scientist in an article below.* Nigel Hawkes enjoyed an illustrious career and was appointed CBE in 1998 for services to the newspaper industry and science, and was the Medical Journalists Association health writer of the year in 2007. As far as we know, no director or party interested in CO-Gas Safety knew Nigel Hawkes before he wrote this piece. No other body does all this, which we find extraordinary especially as the two wealthy charities Gas Safe Charity and the Gas Safety Trust have vast resources compared to us (£1.5 million, and nearly £5 million respectively).
CO-Gas Safety has no official funding for the data and lives very hand to mouth although as a result of the efforts by the parents in the Corfu tragedy, Thomas Cook made a £50,000 donation to CO-Gas Safety in summer 2015. This is wonderful but the trustees have decided that it is not enough to be life changing for the charity.
Until 2010 the data was supported by a S 64 Department of Health grant but from 2010 DoH will only fund new initiatives. Yet surely such basic information needs to be funded?
We applied to the Gas Industry Safety Group for funding for the data in April 2014 but were refused. We applied to both charities for funding to continue our data. The Gas Safe Charity has refused on the grounds that it is concentrating on raising awareness not research or data.
The Gas Safety Trust has refused on the grounds that the GST has decided to undertake its own data collection from all fuels, which basically means it must reinvent the wheel, when we have four wheels and a vehicle on top. This just seems a waste of resources to us. We reapplied on 20th May 2014 and again have met with refusal. We have heard that the GST has had a go at collecting and collating the data but has given up finding it difficult, expensive and time consuming. We are not surprised by this.
We put forward a good proposal to ensure work with a university, victims (from whom we receive a wealth of interesting details and ideas for prevention for the future) and Coroners, (we have been working with Coroners since 1995 and without their help could not have compiled the data we have managed to do).
Please note that we would have been more than happy to work with a university from the start but universities need funding to take on such projects. We have inquired and found that a PhD student costs from about £60,000 to £90,000 for three years.
Baroness Finlay recommended pooling all data, which is very sensible. Although our data is now hugely valuable (as we have data from all fuels from 1995), CO-Gas Safety’s directors would be happy to share this historical data on certain conditions such as publication provided either CO-Gas Safety, (which is a victim based organisation) is funded to continue the data collection, collation and publication (and after all we have been doing this since 1995 so we have the experience) or possibly the data is collected, collated and published by a committee representing an equal number of industry and victims. Both the GSC and the GST are wealthy but lack a single victim on their boards. The majority of the trustees seem to us to be industry based.
Nor does either organisation offer any victim support which we consider is one of the best ways to obtain detailed information. For example it was from offering support to the mother of Matthew Nixon, registered gas installer who died of CO when using a petrol generator to power his tools that we learned that he had been in the gas industry for 6 years before his death in 2010 aged 22.
We offer initial free confidential help and advice to victims and their families, which can be helpful to Coroners and where necessary we pass people on to good solicitors and gas experts.
Giovanni Leonardi, of Public Health England is keen on using our data to start the central database as recommended by Baroness Finlay. We have been told that although PHE will write letters of support with regard to our funding applications, it cannot provide any funding in the foreseeable future.
We know that all published data is only the tip of an iceberg. One reason is that GPs almost never diagnose CO and another is that there is no automatic testing of dead bodies for CO, even in cases of unexplained deaths. There are estimated to be 3,500 unexplained deaths between the ages of 16 and 64 in the UK every year (Killer with no name, New Scientist December 4th 2004). Dr Mary Shepherd receives the hearts for examination in these cases of unexplained death. She kindly wrote to us in 2005 and stated ‘Your suggestion as to the possibility of CO causing sudden death should be considered in all cases and this should be made aware to the coroners in UK who deal with all sudden deaths and their investigation.’
CO-Gas Safety thinks that the gas industry should welcome our data and its continuance because a victim organisation is saying that from the data we have collected, collated and published so far, particularly per user, gas is much safer than solid and other fuels with regard to acute CO deaths
How do CO and other Toxins impact on the UK Population? Re other toxins please see Other Toxins CO+SAVi (group of victims and victim groups) suggests that the following statement(s) is/are being used instead or at least in conjunction with any existing numbers in presentations, press releases, publications, etc.
Short Version There is currently no conclusive and comprehensive way of accurately establishing the actual number of people harmed to whatever level by carbon monoxide and other toxins (CO+ for short). It is recognised that there are many sources of data collated over the years. However, this data is scientifically inconclusive at this point in time. We know that some people can suffer temporary illness, irreversible chronic ill health or death as a consequence of exposure to low-level, chronic and high-level, acute CO+ poisoning. Unfortunately, we do not know how many more are affected and we have no way of objectively and responsibly estimating the true figures.
Updated February 2017
* Nigel Hawkes – For an examination of the Gas Safety Trust’s statistics versus CO-Gas Safety’s. Carbon Monoxide: the killer with no official record Several papers yesterday headlined claims that accidental deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning rose sharply in the 12 months to the end of June 2011. “CO poisoning deaths treble in a year” is The Press and Journal’s take on the story. The Belfast Morning Telegraph reports that Ulster tops the UK deaths table, while the BBC says that Devon has been named as the top “hot spot” for incidents of CO poisoning. The reports derived from the Gas Safety Trust’s Carbon Monoxide Hotspot Report for 2011, which records 25 fatalities in 2010-11 against just seven the year before. It further finds that while deaths have risen the number of incidents has fallen from 72 to 50, and the number of casualties from 138 to 80. Ulster comes high on the list because of three incidents in which a total of seven people died. In Devon, there were five incidents and two deaths. These numbers are simply too small and randomly distributed to allow a league table of hot spots to be constructed. But are they even right? The figures are based entirely on press reports. Such sources aren’t to be despised, but it says something for the dearth of reliable information about carbon monoxide deaths that they should be the sole source. While deaths that are reported are likely to be accurate as they generally originate from coroners’ inquests, there may be others that are not reported at all. Other sources of data are the Health and Safety Executive and the charity CO-Gas Safety, and both tell a very different story. The HSE data cover only those incidents caused by flammable gas, mainly piped gas but also LPG. They record 16 deaths in 2005-06, 10 in 2006-07, 13 in 2007-08, 15 in 2008-09, and (provisionally) nine in 2009-10. Delays in coroners’ inquests mean that this figure is likely to be too low. CO-Gas Safety’s figures are far more convincing, although it is a small charity operating on a modest budget. It records (with names and dates) 594 people who have died in the past 15 years (an average of around 40 a year) and its data includes deaths involving gas mains, portable gas, solid fuel and petrol. It too uses press reports but it also contacts coroners to check details. The best summary of its work appears in this press pack. The charity’s most recent data (see Table) show reductions in deaths since the 1990s but a pretty steady figure for the past decade of around 30 deaths a year. In a 2009 report for the Department of Communities and Local Government, the CO-Gas Safety figures are quoted and compared with a very similar estimate for 2007 made by the Office for National Statistics of 35 deaths due to CO that year. This estimate appears to have been made at the DCLG’s request and is not part of the normal ONS output. However, these figures are in sharp disagreement with the data from the Hot Spot report. There’s no reason to believe that deaths in 2009/10 were as low as seven, as the Hot Spot report claims – CO-Gas Safety counted 25. So the purported increase to 25 this year found by the Hot Spot report is probably not an increase at all. Nor is it the case, if one considers all the deaths recorded by CO-Gas Safety over the past 15 years, that either Devon or Northern Ireland stand out as in any way exceptional. Both fall into the second-highest quintile for CO-related accidental deaths over that period. What does stand out is the absence of official statistics on this cause of death. My guess is that the CO-Gas Safety figures are about as good as there are. It’s extraordinary that the founder and director of the charity, Stephanie Trotter OBE, assisted by a friend, should be able to collect figures that appear beyond the heating industry. The figures are regularly updated, mostly by adding deaths for recent years because it can take three years for an inquest to be held, but very occasionally removing deaths that turn out later to have been suicides. As she puts it on her website: “We are shocked that our data is better than Government’s. We try to check most deaths with Coroners and we have built up a good relationship with them over the 15 years we have been doing this. We also check with other bodies, such as the Solid Fuel Association, which has always been extremely helpful to us.” It’s also rather shocking that nobody is trying harder to fill this gap. ONS has demonstrated that it has the capacity to make an estimate, but doesn’t do so on a regular basis. The evidence is that the number of deaths has fallen since the 1990s, but it is still unacceptably high. There are also many “mear-misses” and in September the Department of Health issued experimental data derived from Hospital Episode Statistics suggesting that 4,000 people a year attend A&E departments with CO poisoning. The DH also believes that there are 50 deaths a year, and 200 injuries tnat require admission to hospital. This suggests that the deaths recorded by CO-Gas Safety may be an underestimate. The Hot Spots report was researched and compiled by an undergraduate at St John’s College, Cambridge. No offence to him, and I’m sure he did the best with the data at his disposal, but I think it’s time greater efforst were made to measure this significant cause of death. The Gas Safety Trust records that it has spent more than £170,000 on data collection and analysis since September 2007, employing a number of consultancies to do the work. The Hot Spots report is not the only publication it produces using this data, but it is the one most likely to be read by gas consumers. CO-Gas Safety, meanwhile, is seeking grants to continue its work. Nigel Hawkes http://www.wcsjnews.org/users/nigel-hawkes Nigel Hawkes Profile Submitted by Nigel Hawkes on Fri, 2009-06-19 12:33 Personal First name: Nigel http://www.wcsjnews.org/users/nigel-hawkes Last name: Hawkes Biography: Nigel Hawkes is a science journalist with more than 40 years experience. A graduate in metallurgy from Oxford, he has written about science, health and international affairs in a career that began on the staff of Nature and included long spells at The Observer (1972-90) and The Times (1990-2008). He retired from The Times in 2008 after eight years as Health Editor, and is now a columnist for British Medical Journal and Director of a new pressure group, Straight Statistics, which campaigns for the honest presentation and use of statistical data by government, media, and others.. He has written a number of books, including Structures, a book about building and civil engineering, and more than 40 science and technology titles for children and teenagers. He was appointed CBE in 1998 for services to the newspaper industry and science, and was the Medical Journalists Association health writer of the year in 2007. Professional Title: Founder Institution: Straight Statistics Conference Speaker:
Notes relating to the compilation of CO-Gas Safety’s statistics and graphic representations
The statistics represented in this presspack have been prepared using the CO-Gas Safety database of information relating to unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning cases.
The database records both fatal and non-fatal incidents, but the statistics published here include only those that resulted in a life lost. Other exposures that caused injury or potential risk to health are not included. Many of the incidents that resulted in fatalities will have also injured or affected other individuals, but only the deceased victims are counted among these statistics.
The database covers all information that CO-Gas Safety has been able to compile for incidents that took place from 01/09/1995 to the present day. The statistics shown in this presspack were gathered from the database on 31/08/2017 and therefore do not include any data that was added to, or updated in, the database after that date. For this reason, there may be incidents that took place before 31/08/2017 (but recorded by CO-Gas Safety after that date) that are not included in this set of statistics.
As we are continually working on the information that we hold on the database (to ensure that press reports are officially verified by bodies such as Coroners, the Health & Safety Executive, Police & Fire Services, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, the Solid Fuel Association etc) there may be differences between the figures published by CO-Gas Safety here and in previous CO-Gas Safety releases. This would be particularly noticeable in those statistics that quote fatality figures by specific annual intervals.
As percentage figures are quoted as whole numbers (and to one decimal place for any results less than 1%), the sum of all categories quoted may not give a total of exactly 100%.
For many of the systems and appliances involved in unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning incidents, the cause of the leak of carbon monoxide that results in a potentially fatal situation may be a fault or blockage in the flue system, rather than the appliance itself. However, it is the appliance requiring the flue that is used to produce our statistics. In some cases it may be that there was no fault with the actual appliance but that it was used inappropriately, such as without adequate ventilation (if vents were covered over or if an outdoor generator, BBQ or patio heater was used indoors).
Most of the charts included in this presspack show a category of ‘unknown’. For these cases the field of data relevant to that particular chart may be inconclusively definable for a number of reasons – the information may not have been deemed relevant to the circumstances of the death and therefore not included in the inquest proceedings, or the wording used in a press report may have had multiple possible interpretations. For some incidents, Coroner’s offices no longer held full paper records, due to fire or flood, and held only sparse details on computer archives. For others, those officials recording the specifics of an incident did not realise the importance of certain circumstances and thus did not identify or make note of the details. If CO-Gas Safety could not determine the information with conviction, then a response of ‘unknown’ was recorded for statistical purposes, and notes of our assumptions and/or suspicions will have been made anecdotally within the database casenotes. However, ALL the cases recorded within our database as confirmed fatalities (which are those used for these statistical charts) have been the subject of a public inquest or confirmed to us by one of the aforementioned official services.
Where necessary, notes have been given below a chart to help clarify the categories used in their production. These are sometimes difficult to define and incidents can often fall into more than one dataset. In such circumstances a judgement must be made by the compiler of the statistics. Examples are as follows: in the appliance type chart, cases resulting from misuse of portable outdoor patio heaters have been included in the ‘portable heater (outdoor)’ category, but could just as easily have been assigned to the ‘camping equipment’ category instead; in the place chart, a case of a tradesman being poisoned while working on an unfinished new-build home was categorised under ‘workplace’ rather than ‘house’; and victims discovered in a wood cabin at a campsite and a shed behind a restaurant were both categorised under ‘commercial premises’ rather than ‘shed or similar’, as it was felt that it was more important to reflect the ownership of the locations than their construction. This may be an aspect of our research that we show with further detail and clarity in future publications.