Gas Safety Trust to fund research into improved carbon monoxide poisoning diagnosis

For immediate release - Thursday 27 July 2017

The Gas Safety Trust (GST) today (27 July 2017) announced that it is to provide funds to Newcastle University for a study into possible new ways to detect carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning which could be used when CO exposure is suspected at lower levels.

This research will focus on developing techniques that demonstrate the specific effects of CO on cells and tissues by identifying how changes in the cells (biomarkers) can occur. These biomarkers will be required to show both the level of CO exposure and the toxic effects of CO, and need to be robust and long lasting for practical use by medical professionals.

Department of Health (DH) statistics state that every year in England and Wales, approximately 30 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning, that 200 people are admitted to hospital, and around 4,000 people attend A&E, are treated and sent home.  However it is generally accepted that these figures underestimate the scale of the problem, due to the difficulties in diagnosis.

The fact that symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to the symptoms of the common cold and flu provide challenges for medical professionals to diagnose and as such, it is often overlooked. Furthermore, current methods to confirm CO poisoning in the body require specialist equipment that is frequently used long after the patient has stopped being exposed to CO, making it much more difficult to determine if a person has been exposed since CO can be rapidly eliminated from the body.

Chris Bielby, GST Chair said:

“Getting to the true number of deaths and injuries caused by carbon monoxide is a key concern of the Gas Safety Trust and we are pleased to fund this research by Newcastle University. Research such as this can make it easier for health professionals to spot cases of carbon monoxide poisoning and help inform government and industry about the scale of the issue.”

Dr Christopher Morris, Senior Lecturer, Medical Toxicology Centre and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health protections Research Unit in Chemical Radiation Threats and Hazards at Newcastle University said:

“This work will provide us with the preliminary information on possible blood protein biomarkers which might indicate CO exposure and the stability of these protein markers when CO exposure is no longer present. The use of blood derived biomarkers would provide a basis for future clinical investigations into CO exposure.”

The GST, set up in 2005, is the UK’s leading gas safety research charity and has in recent years refocused its strategy on funding several strands of CO related research, to provide the underpinning empirical evidence that supports improved awareness and understanding of the effects of CO. The GST is generously funded by the gift aided profits of CORGI Services Limited.


Notes to editors

About Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a gas formed during the incomplete combustion of any carbon-based or fossil fuel (e.g. gas, coal, oil, wood, charcoal etc) which happens when there is insufficient oxygen caused by poor ventilation.

About the Gas Safety Trust

The Gas Safety Trust, established in 2005 as a registered charitable body, has become the UK’s leading fuel safety charity with the key objectives of further improving fuel safety for the public and industry throughout the United Kingdom and reducing the incidents of death and serious injury from carbon monoxide exposure. The Gas Safety Trust is generously funded by the gift aided profits of CORGI Services Limited.

For further information, visit: ;

About Newcastle University, Medical Toxicology Centre

We're an international centre of expertise in toxicology. Our members come from a wide range of disciplines, but share the common goal of improving the health of the population. Our research explores the role of chemical and radiation exposure in human disease. Our findings inform the development of disease management and prevention methods.

For further information, visit

About the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

Improving the health and wealth of the nation through research.

Established by the Department of Health, the NIHR:

•     funds high quality research to improve health

•     trains and supports health researchers

•     provides world-class research facilities

•     works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all

•     involves patients and the public at every step

For further information, visit the NIHR website

For further information please contact:

Adrian McConnell                   

Trust Manager

Gas Safety Trust

T: 020 7706 5111
M: 07792 219649
Follow us: @GasSafetyTrust

Visit GST’s CO Portal: