An All-Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group and Policy Connect’s Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Saving Lives, Advancing Treatment 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 recognizes 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.
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 post code 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 £178 million per annum.