Data & Statistical Reports

Carbon monoxide poisoning is an important public health problem in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that nearly 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning each year.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) defines carbon monoxide poisoning as a carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) level of >15% (although lower levels can cause symptoms and illness) or a death certificate stating carbon monoxide as the underlying or a contributing cause of death. Health care providers are required to report cases to DHSS. Click here to report a case of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Missouri conducts on-going statewide surveillance for carbon monoxide poisonings. There were 476 Missouri deaths with carbon monoxide poisoning reported to the DHSS Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology in calendar years 2001-2011. Of those 476 deaths, 190 (39.9%) were suicides and three (.6%) were homicides. There were 198 (41.6%) accidental deaths and 85 (17.9%) deaths with unknown manner of death on the death certificate.

Carbon Monoxide Fatalities by Manner of Death, Missouri 2001-2011

Fires are the most common cause of the 198 accidental carbon monoxide fatalities in calendar years 2001-2011 comprising 76 or 38.4% of the deaths.  Other sources of accidental carbon monoxide deaths were from vehicles accidentally left running indoors (43 or 21.7%), faulty furnaces (20 or 10.1%), generators (18 or 9.1%), portable heaters (7 or 3.5%), unventilated power equipment such as lawn mowers and power washers (5 or 2.5%), charcoal grills used indoors (3 or 1.5%), household appliances such as dryers or water heaters (1 or .5%) and industrial machines (1 or .5%). Source of exposure was unknown in 24 (12.1%) of fatal cases.

Accidental Carbon Monoxide Fatalities by Exposure Source, Missouri 2001-2011
Accidental Non-Fire Carbon Monoxide Fatalities by Exposure Source, Missouri 2001-2011

Consistent with nationally published data for 2001-2011, the 122 accidental, non-fire related carbon monoxide fatalities in Missouri, 58 (47.5%) occurred during the winter season of December, January and February. Increased use of home heating systems, exposure to motor-vehicle exhaust by stranded motorists during blizzards, use of gasoline-powered generators during and after winter storms, and indoor use of charcoal grills, portable stoves, and space heaters all contribute to the increased dangers of carbon monoxide exposures during winter. There were 28 (23.0%) deaths during fall (September, October, November), and 21 (17.2%) during spring (March, April, May). The summer season of June, July and August had the fewest carbon monoxide deaths (15 or 12.3%).

Accidental Non-Fire Carbon Monoxide Deaths by Season, Missouri 2001-2011
Accidental Non-Fire Carbon Monoxide Deaths by Month, Missouri 2001-2011

The geographic distribution of carbon monoxide poisoning deaths from 2001-2011, shows that there was one or  more accidental, non-fire death due to carbon monoxide poisoning in 43 of Missouri’s 114 counties and St. Louis City.

Accidental Non-Fire Carbon Monoxide Deaths by County of Residence 2001-2011   

In 18 carbon monoxide incidents, there were multiple deaths, and in two of the incidents there were five victims.

Note: Information presented represent reported cases only.  The actual number of Missourians suffering carbon monoxide poisoning is unknown because many cases are not reported, particularly poisoning cases not resulting in death.