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Carbon Monoxide poisoning being dismissed as pregnancy symptoms – iPIP helps launch new report

APPG COThe All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group today (11th October 2017) launched Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Saving Lives, Advancing Treatment. The report  has identified that symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are not routinely being detected in the healthcare system.

One of the key concerns is that pregnant women are among those most at risk for not being identified as being poisoned, since many of the symptoms are very similar to pregnancy indicators such as nausea and headaches.

The report recognises the importance of proper training/equipment in the healthcare system in order to detect carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Acute CO poisoning in pregnancy has been reported to result in the death of the unborn child,  congenital malformations and damage to the baby’s brain.  Sudden infant death has also occurred in association with reported moderate to severe CO poisoning.

Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive at Sands (Stillbirth and neonatal death charity), said:

“Carbon monoxide is a silent killer so we welcome the report from the All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group and Policy Connect highlighting its danger to pregnant women. It is very concerning that women and health professionals may be misidentifying symptoms of environmental CO poisoning as normal pregnancy changes.  We back the call for an evidence-based pathway to identify and prevent exposure during pregnancy, and will incorporate key messages and information into our Safer Pregnancy advice website.”

Hilary WareingHilary Wareing, Director of iPIP, also contributed to the report and will speak at the launch in the House of Commons this afternoon, she said;

“Carbon monoxide screening of pregnant women is being undertaken in many maternity units across England to help identify women who smoke and ensure they have rapid access to treatment which supports them to have a smokefree pregnancy. However, this screening has also discovered many people, often the most vulnerable in poor quality accommodation, who were affected by carbon monoxide from other sources – sometimes to a dangerous level. This report underlines the importance of comprehensive CO screening.”


The report identifies a need to develop guidelines on the management of CO poisoning during pregnancy, and that regular CO screening should be undertaken throughout a pregnancy rather than just at the very beginning, in order to detect poisoning. Whilst CO screening is being undertaken at the first appointment with the midwife in many maternity services across England the service is not universal leading to concerns of a postcode lottery.

Carbon monoxide leads to more than 30 people a year losing their lives and some 200 being admitted to hospital. The experts believe these figures could be a gross underestimation and the actual cost to the NHS is likely to be much more than the current estimate of at least £178million per annum.

For the Daily Mail feature story on this report click here

For more information about carbon monoxide click here

For more information about iPIP/TCCC’s BabyClear programme click here

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