Unintentional non-fire-related carbon monoxide exposures--United States, 2001-2003

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2005 Jan 21;54(2):36-9.


Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that results from incomplete combustion of fuels (e.g., natural or liquefied petroleum gas, oil, wood, coal, or other fuels). CO sources (e.g., furnaces, generators, gas heaters, and motor vehicles) are common in homes or work environments and can put persons at risk for CO exposure and poisoning. Most signs and symptoms of CO exposure are nonspecific (e.g., headache or nausea) and can be mistakenly attributed to other causes, such as viral illnesses. Undetected or unsuspected CO exposure can result in death. To examine fatal and nonfatal unintentional, non-fire-related CO exposures, CDC analyzed 2001-2003 data on emergency department (ED) visits from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP) and 2001-2002 death certificate data from the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). During 2001-2003, an estimated 15,200 persons with confirmed or possible non-fire-related CO exposure were treated annually in hospital EDs. In addition, during 2001-2002, an average of 480 persons died annually from non-fire-related CO poisoning. Although males and females were equally likely to visit an ED for CO exposure, males were 2.3 times more likely to die from CO poisoning. Most (64%) of the nonfatal CO exposures occurred in homes. Efforts are needed to educate the public about preventing CO exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • United States / epidemiology