A two-year research study by Cranfield University has found there are serious gaps in the understanding of carbon monoxide poisoning and has recommended future areas of research that will have the biggest impact on protecting of the public. 

The launch of the co+Impact Project, funded by the Gas Safety Trust, will take place today at Cranfield Defence and Security, Shrivenham. The launch will see researchers and stakeholders from the UK, EU and overseas come together to discuss the future of carbon monoxide (CO) research.

Dubbed ‘the silent killer’, carbon monoxide is tasteless, colourless, odourless and undetectable. It is currently suggested that approximately 2,000 people a year in the UK are poisoned by CO every year. However, this is believed to be a gross underestimate, due to the difficulty in detecting CO poisoning. 

To reduce the risk to the public, the true impact needs to be understood. The aim of the co+Impact project is to establish the impact of carbon monoxide poisoning on the UK population in a variety of environments. 

This was done by establishing the current state of knowledge about carbon monoxide and suggesting future areas of research that will have the biggest impact on the protection of the public.

It is hoped that research suggestions and recommendations made by this report will be undertaken promptly by funders and researchers so knowledge in carbon monoxide poisoning can be advanced. 

“When it comes to improving public policy and raising awareness on carbon monoxide (CO) safety, high-quality, evidence-based research is crucial,” says Barry Sheerman MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group. “By enabling academics from across Europe and beyond to come together and share their findings, this conference will help to protect people around the world from the threat of the silent killer.” 

Chris Bielby, Chair of the Gas Safety Trust, said: "This is an important piece of work which will contribute to the Gas Safety Trust's research funding strategy over the coming years.  It is essential that we identify and target those gaps in our knowledge so we can make a real difference and not duplicate efforts." 

The co+Impact project found that more research is needed in chronic low-level poisoning as this has the biggest impact on the UK population. Furthermore, how this may change with the increase in energy efficient homes is an important topic where more in-depth knowledge is required.

Cranfield Lecturer in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology Roland Wessling, who leads the co+Impact project, said: “We are highlighting the need for research projects in system dynamic modeling to better drive legislation, and the collaboration of data sets for carbon monoxide surveillance. 

“Filling in these gaps in our knowledge can provide better diagnosis and care for victims, and better arguments for policy, which will aid in protecting the public from the dangers of CO. 

“Our report outlines some current themes in carbon monoxide poisoning research that are lacking in relevant knowledge and therefore do not provide the most accurate and reliable arguments for altering policy and the behaviours of the public.” 

The project assisted in populating the carbon monoxide CO Portal hosted by the Gas Safety Trust, which provides a starting point for researchers undertaking projects in carbon monoxide poisoning. 

The co+Impact project is part of a wider Cranfield University Initiative, CORE (carbon monoxide research), which is attempting to reduce the dangers associated with carbon monoxide through a number of collaborative research projects.  

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.