On average, CO-Gas Safety’s data on unintentional Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning from ALL carbon based fuels has shown about 30 deaths per year (27.8 to be precise, though this reduces to 11.9 if just the last ten years are included). These figures are almost certainly the tip of an iceberg because there is no automatic testing for CO of people on death, even for those who die from unexplained causes. Survivors who have symptoms of CO have great difficulty obtaining a blood or breath test in time to test positive for CO, as it dissipates from the body once fresh air is breathed. We no longer publish statistics regarding non-fatal exposures to unintentional CO as we know a huge number go unreported, and even more are undiagnosed at all. Please Note:-
- There seems to have been a dramatic reduction in deaths in the last few years. However it can take up to three years for CO-Gas Safety to hear of a death (usually when the inquest is reported) so we always treat such reductions with caution.
- Unexplained deaths in the UK in people between the ages of 16 and 64 are about 3,500 each year (New Scientist The killer with no name December 2004). According to Prof. Mary Sheppard, who examines the hearts of deceased persons for whom cause of death has proven difficult to establish, no tests are routinely undertaken for CO.
Also, The National Gas Emergency Service has no equipment to test appliances for CO. The Gas Energency Service providers do all have either Personal Alarm Monitors for CO or Gasco Seekers for CO. However, when a person telephones the gas emergency service he is told to turn everything off and open the windows. By the time the First Call Operator arrives any CO if present has dissipated unless it’s coming from next door or an unsuspected appliance (e.g. woodburner). As CO is not tested for, it is not officially found or recorded. CO-Gas Safety thinks that it is scandalous that a deadly gas, which cannot be sensed using human senses, is not tested for by the Gas Emergency Service. Most Registered Gas Installers have flue gas analysers, which can be used to test for CO but the installers are reluctant to use them to test the air in a room for CO or to give consumers the parts per million of CO (if any) found. There is a qualification called CMDDA1 which permits registered gas installers who have this qualification to test gas appliances for CO. As of the end of September 2014 824 registered installers have this qualification. However, the Gas Safe Register tell us that consumers will have to find a registered installer in their area with this qualification. Many registered installers offer ‘fume investigation’ but please be aware that this does not necessarily mean that the firm has anyone qualified under CMDDA1 and even if they do, please make sure it is that person who attends. We are also unaware of the cost likely to be charged for this service.
*Please note that we gather these statistics from newspaper cuttings etc and we check deaths with the Coroners – most Coroners are very helpful. Figures for near-misses (non-fatal exposures) published in our press packs pre-2020 reflect only those reported in the press; we expect the true figure to be much higher. Deaths and injuries sometimes do not come to our attention for several years. The reason is that often we do not hear of a death until the inquest is reported in the press. It is not unusual for the inquest to be held around three years after the death and in some cases, even longer after the death. This has the consequence of the most recent years seeming to have lower death rates. Please also note that all figures are running totals and are adjusted as more information is gathered.
Map of the UK
Download Map of the UK showing deaths from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning (pdf – updated 25/01/22)
Analysis of Deaths & Injuries
Why have we collected this data?
Background to CO-Gas Safety’s 24 years of data of deaths and injuries from Unintentional Carbon Monoxide poisoning and gas explosions from 01.09.1995 – 31.08.2019
When we first launched at the House of Commons in 1995, it was obvious that there was a huge need. However, we did not know how many people were dying or being injured from carbon monoxide poisoning and we needed to find out. It was also obvious that if a common reason could be found for the deaths, those deaths could be reduced. We asked the then Gas Consumers Council to attend all the inquests on CO deaths in one year but they responded that such an exercise had ‘resource implications’. The GCC was funded by a levy on the industry, so we asked the GCC to ask for more funding to do this. Stephanie Trotter did some research and found out that inquests could be attended by junior barristers for £100 each plus £100 for compilation etc., costing a total a total of £10,000 for 50 deaths. Hardly a huge cost so the charity put this proposal to the GCC. As far as we know, GCC failed to act on our suggestion. We started collecting data in Autumn 1995, using every method available and employed a press cutting agency. Trotter asked a friend, Jo Richards if she would take this over for some payment. Thankfully she agreed and she compiled the data until 2013. Jo retired in March 2013 and although we miss her we now have an excellent replacement, Beverley Squire, Ba (Hons) Bsc (Hons) RGN RSCN RHV (SCPHN), who was a health visitor, senior clinical nurse and staff nurse. Obviously we worked hard to refine our methods and were soon writing to Coroners to check details. We found out some interesting facts:-
- It can take up to three years for an inquest to be held so the most recent years show fewer deaths because we often don’t hear about a death until the inquest.
- Local papers were remarkably accurate on the whole, especially when reporting an inquest. When you think about it, this is not surprising because local journalist don’t want to cause offence by writing ‘John Smith committed suicide’ when he didn’t.
- The Coroners (although all independent) became more and more helpful because we sent them our statistics, a one page update of the deaths (we still do this see page 19 in our 2014 press pack) so they could and can see that we used the data we sent them. I would like to thank all those Coroners and Coroners’ officers for the invaluable work they do and the help they have given the charity over the years. We couldn’t have done this work without you.
- We found that in order to be accurate, you need the name of the deceased, the date of death and the place of death (the place of death provides the Coroner with his or her jurisdiction over the body – with deaths abroad it is where the body arrives in the UK).
- The HSE did not publish the names of the dead for many years so it was impossible to compare our data with theirs. However, the HSE does now publish the names of the dead. The HSE basically only collects gas related CO deaths.
- HSE maintained that the families would be upset if HSE published the names. We had asked the families (it seems HSE had not) and families were glad that we intended to publish the names; they told us that our list is like a war memorial. HSE does now give us the names and we have been informed (2014) that they do now check the deaths with the Coroners. The Gas Safety Trust have now stated that they will check the deaths with the Coroners but we have been doing this since we started.
- We decided to collect, compile and freely publish named CO deaths from all fuels. The Gas Safety Trust says it is now doing this but we collect directly from media reports not just from other agencies such as the Solid Fuel Association. A couple of years ago the SFA was surprised to find that we had more deaths than they did.
- Other bodies were extremely helpful to us, such as the Boat Safety Scheme and the Solid Fuel Association.
- Setting up the database and website was another milestone. We decided that the only way forward was to publish our data on the website so anyone could correct any errors. Our data is continually updated and corrected where further information (e.g. from an inquest or from relatives) is provided. Our database now includes scanned copies of documentation attached to the incident records, such as a Coroner’s report, appliance inspection report or newspaper articles.
- We have managed to have our database independently inspected and validated by Dr. Craggs three times now, once in late 2011-12, again in 2014 and finally in 2016.
- Please note that our database was also inspected by Public Health England in January 2015.
- We were told in March 2011, the All Party Parliamentary Gas Safety Group was setting up research into ‘barriers to accurate recording of data’. We have been collecting data since September 1995. For a summary of the APPGSG report please see pages 9 & 10 of our 2014 press pack. Recommendation 17 of the APPGSG report states:- ‘The Health and Safety Executive, working in partnership with industry, should create a central collation point for data relating to carbon monoxide injuries and fatalities, together with a dedicated helpline that would help act as a signposting service.’ In our press pack 2011 we stated ‘The real issue is why is there no automatic test of dead bodies for CO?’ Note The Gas Safety Trust is undertaking some research in three coronial areas and testing all dead bodies for CO. ‘Also, why doesn’t Government encourage Coroners to report this sort of CO death automatically?’ We are therefore delighted that Recommendation 7 of the APPGSG report states:- ‘The Government should ensure that all coroners’ post-mortems routinely test for carboxyhaemoglobin levels, recording death from carbon monoxide poisoning as a distinct category and to notify this to a central register if a verdict is recorded only in the narrative section of the coroner’s certificate.’ However, who will control the input and output of such a central register? Will victims or representatives of victims be part of any board set up to do this?
- It seems wrong that our data is the best in the UK but this seems to be so. It is peculiar that our data continues to be ignored. Perhaps big business cannot accept that a small charity can do just as well, if not better, than large organizations with huge funding?
- We would like to have the funding to continue our data collection, to provide more analysis of the existing data. In the past we have been supported by the Department of Health for many years and we are grateful. In our opinion, our research is not something that can be peer reviewed, because who else is even trying to gather as much data as we are? However, we need funding just to continue, let alone do this. CO-Gas Safety applied to the Gas Safe Charity for funding to continue our data in September 2010. This was refused but a further application was made in 2011 and the Gas Safe Charity agreed to pay for an independent statistician to validate our data. This has now been finished by Dr. Craggs who sent the report to the Gas Safe Charity on the 10th April 2012. We could supply copies if asked. CO-Gas Safety applied for funding to the Gas Industry Safety Group in Spring 2014 and was refused. CO-Gas Safety applied for funding to the Gas Safety Trust in May 2014 and was refused on the grounds that the GST would be gathering the data itself. However, CO-Gas Safety considers that victim support is a vital part of data gathering and it is from offering such support that important details are obtained which can lead to prevention. GST has no victims or representatives of victims on its board and does not offer victim support.Stephanie Trotter, OBE
Sponsorship urgently sought for the data collection and publication to continue and for the work of the charity generally Arguably an office is needed but it should be able to find people to do this from home. Our application to the Gas Safe Charity was considered and they have paid for our data to be validated by an independent statistician. However, although the data was found to be satisfactory this application was refused. However, the charity is applying again to various bodies. Validation of CO-Gas Safety’s data During the Winter and Spring of 2011 Dr. Craggs undertook a review of CO-Gas Safety’s data. This was kindly paid for by the Gas Safe Charity. Stephanie and Jo Richards thoroughly enjoyed working with Dr. Craggs and consider that the standard of the data will be greatly enhanced by this work, once secure funding is obtained and the new database set up. The first three overall conclusions by Dr. Craggs were: The small but dedicated CO–Gas Safety team must be given full credit for successful in creating a good quality set of raw data compiled over a period of 17 years. This is particularly admirable as they have had extremely limited resources. A process flow indicated the complexity of the systems used. However, the reliability of the present paper filing system was excellent. To simplify the filing, moving some filing from paper to electronic should be considered. The quality of the raw data collected by CO-Gas Safety was good. The information collected on deaths is valid and reliable though clearly an under-estimate for total deaths. The Near Misses are slightly less reliable as the primary source is from newspaper reports and by the nature of Near Misses there are fewer opportunities to reliably follow-up these reports. It is recognised and accepted by all that the summary statistics produced by CO-Gas Safety are under-estimates of the actual numbers of victims and, for this reason, careful interpretation of CO-Gas Safety statistics is needed. Note by Stephanie We have always accepted that even the deaths we record are the tip of an iceberg. There is no automatic testing of dead bodies for CO on death, even when death is unexplained. There is no Coronial system in Scotland which, in our opinion means a gross under reporting of CO deaths there. Please note that CO-Gas Safety’s data is the only data on CO that has been validated by a statistician. Please also note that Straight Statistics commented favourably on our data see Press Pack 2012 at pages 23-35 DR CAROLYN CRAGGS BSc PhD CStat FRSS Experienced statistician – consultancy and training Lean Six Sigma, Operational Excellence and Quality Compliance Secretary of Quality Improvement Section, Royal Statistical Society Experience in a large multi-national company Successful trainer with ability to develop training strategies Qualifications
|1993- to date||Chartered Statistician|
|1980||PhD in Applied Statistics, University of Newcastle upon Tyne|
|1976||BSc(Hons) Statistics (First Class), University of Newcastle upon Tyne|
|1976 – to date||Fellow of Royal Statistical Society|
- Training statistical & Six Sigma (Green, Black & Master Black Belt) courses including software e.g. MINITAB, SPSS
- Developing training programmes aligned to business needs
- Training courses presently available include: a range of Refresher Statistics courses, Six Sigma Black Belt Training, Analysis of Variance, Multivariate Analysis,.
|2007- to date||Director – Carolyn Craggs Statistician Limited (CCSL)|
|1999-2007||Principal Statistician in Operational Excellence, GlaxoSmithKline plc based at Barnard Castle; in addition Lean Six Sigma Expert|
|1998-1999||Director of Programmes (courses), School of Computing andMathematics, University of Northumbria at Newcastle, UK|
|1989-1998||Head of Statistics Division and Principal Lecturer in Statistics, School of Mathematics, University of Northumbria at Newcastle, UK|
|1985-1989||Senior Lecturer in Statistics, University of Northumbria|
|1983-1985||Lecturer II in Applied Statistics, Sheffield City Polytechnic, UK|
|1979-1983||Lecturer in Statistics, The University, Hull|
CO-Gas Safety also runs a Helpline and attends many meetings to put the victim’s and consumer’s point of view. Thankfully we have a replacement for Jo Richards. However, we are concerned with finding a replacement for Stephanie. Although this is not urgent yet, it will become so very soon. Stephanie’s husband, John Trotter, who was a senior partner in Bates Wells & Braithwaite (a solicitors’ firm which specialises in charity law) retired in April 2013. Naturally Stephanie wishes to be free to be with him, not working the present 14 hours per day in winter. We only heard on the 16th January 2011 that our data had been used extensively in preparing a piece of Government research ’Study on the Provision of Carbon Monoxide Detectors Under the Building Regulations’ BD 2754 http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/1324663 We complained as this is a breach of our copyright and eventually received a donation. We have recently heard (December 2011) that our data has been used for an article in International Journal of Environmental Health Research. Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cije20 Epidemiology of unintentional carbon monoxide fatalities in the UK Alexandra de Juniac, Irene Kreis, Judith Ibison & Virginia Murray, Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards (London) Health Protection Agency, London, UK St. George’s University, London, UK Population Health Sciences and Education, St. George’s University, London, UK Available online: 16 Dec 2011 However, we cannot obtain more than the abstract due to copyright! There is the website to keep up and there are other expenses such as computer help, telephone, stationary and travelling to help victims (at inquests for example) etc. Stephanie works from home so there are virtually no office costs. There are gas safety trusts with funds and companies which make huge profits and yet profess to care about their customers and gas safety, yet a charity such as CO-Gas Safety is struggling simply to find funding to continue its vital work. Stephanie and the directors do the work as volunteers. Think how much more it would cost if CO-Gas Safety was run by civil servants or company employees with bonuses and pension funds!
If there are any wealthy trusts or companies which would be willing to fund CO-Gas Safety’s vital work, please get in contact with us on firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile 07803 088688. This work needs to be continued.