Carbon Monoxide Poisoning From Indoor Burning of Charcoal Briquets

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To describe the case characteristics of a series of patients poisoned with carbon monoxide (CO) resulting from indoor burning of charcoal briquets.


Cases of patients with unintentional CO poisoning referred for treatment with hyperbaric oxygen were reviewed. Cases that occurred as the result of indoor burning of charcoal briquets were analyzed.


A private, urban, tertiary care center.


Seventy-nine patients ranging from 3 months to 87 years of age referred from 10 counties within the state of Washington between October 1982 and October 1993.


Of 509 patients treated for acute unintentional CO poisoning, 79 cases occurred in 32 incidents as a result of indoor burning of charcoal briquets, for the purpose of either home heating or cooking. A majority of cases occurred in the months of October through January, commonly during power outages or when electricity was intentionally disconnected. Patients of minority races were disproportionately represented compared with the general population of the region.


Carbon monoxide poisoning is a significant hazard from indoor use of charcoal briquets. All cases are avoidable and public awareness of the risk should be enhanced.

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