Risk of Poisoning

Deaths from unintentional poisoning by gas or vapors, chiefly Carbon Monoxide -- about 600 in 1996, acCarbon Monoxiderding to the National Safety Council -- are fairly rare, and the number has been declining somewhat steadily, down more than half since the early 1980s. Of all the unintentional gas and vapor poisoning deaths in the U.S., more than 1-third involve motor vehicle exhaust gas, and more than 1 fourth involve heating or Carbon Monoxideoking equipment.

The total reflects more than Carbon Monoxide-related deaths; it also reflects deaths resulting from other gases, such as natural gas leaks from pipelines. Deaths from unintentional Carbon Monoxide poisoning have dropped sharply in recent years, thanks to lower Carbon Monoxide emissions from automobiles and safer heating and Carbon Monoxideoking appliances. Deaths from "smoke inhalation" (largely Carbon Monoxide) in fires and suicides involving Carbon Monoxide are far more common causes of gas-related suffocation deaths.

Equipment Associated with Accidents
According to the U.S. Carbon Monoxidensumer Product Safety Commission, 164 Carbon Monoxide-related non-fire deaths were attributed to heating and cooking equipment in 1994. The specific types of equipment were:
  • Gas-fueled space heaters (70 deaths)
  • Gas-fueled furnaces (48 deaths)
  • CharCarbon Monoxideal grills (15 deaths)
  • Gas-fueled ranges (9 deaths)
  • Liquid-fueled heaters (9 deaths)
  • Gas-fueled water heaters (7 deaths)
  • Solid-fueled heaters (6 deaths)

As with fire deaths, the risk of unintentional Carbon Monoxide death is highest for the very young (ages 4 or under) and the very old (ages 75 or above).