Mortality associated with exposure to carbon monoxide in WHO European Member States


M. Braubach
WHO European Centre for Environment and Health
Hermann-Ehlers-Str. 10 - 53113 Bonn Germany

Tel.: +49-228-815-0418

Fax: +49-228-815-0440



In closed environments, the concentration of carbon monoxide (CO) can easily rise to health-threatening levels. CO-related incidents are often caused by poor condition or inappropriate use of indoor combustion devices as well as structure fires but are also due to suicides. To evaluate the incidence of CO poisoning in Europe, national data on CO-related mortality and morbidity were compiled from Member States of the WHO European Region using a standardized data collection form. National data on CO poisoning were provided by 28 Member States. Within the maximum reporting period (1980–2008), a total of 140 490 CO-related deaths were reported (annual death rate of 2.2/100 000). The number of hospital admissions available from six countries was 31 473. Unintentional CO deaths accounted for 54.7% of the CO-related deaths (35.9%: unintentional inhalation; 18.8%: related to structure fires). The intentional deaths related to CO exposure account for 38.6% of all CO-related deaths (38.1%: suicides; 0.5%: homicides). CO exposure is preventable but causes a substantial amount of deaths in many European countries. More efficient measures and policies to prevent CO poisoning and better reporting of CO mortality are necessary.