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Am J Emerg Med. 2012 Jun;30(5):657-64. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2011.03.003. Epub 2011 May 12.

Hospital burden of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States, 2007.

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Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch, Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30341, USA.



Unintentional, non-fire-related (UNFR) carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a leading cause of poisoning in the United States, but the overall hospital burden is unknown. This study presents patient characteristics and the most recent comprehensive national estimates of UNFR CO-related emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations.


Data from the 2007 Nationwide Inpatient and Emergency Department Sample of the Hospitalization Cost and Utilization Project were analyzed. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists' CO poisoning case definition was used to classify confirmed, probable, and suspected cases.


In 2007, more than 230,000 ED visits (772 visits/million) and more than 22,000 hospitalizations (75 stays/million) were related to UNFR CO poisoning. Of these, 21,304 ED visits (71 visits/million) and 2302 hospitalizations (8 stays/million) were confirmed cases of UNFR CO poisoning. Among the confirmed cases, the highest ED visit rates were among persons aged 0 to 17 years (76 visits/million) and 18 to 44 years (87 visits/million); the highest hospitalization rate was among persons aged 85 years or older (18 stays/million). Women visited EDs more frequently than men, but men were more likely to be hospitalized. Patients residing in a nonmetropolitan area and in the northeast and midwest regions of the country had higher ED visit and hospitalization rates. Carbon monoxide exposures occurred mostly (>60%) at home. The hospitalization cost for confirmed CO poisonings was more than $26 million.


Unintentional, non-fire-related CO poisonings pose significant economic and health burden; continuous monitoring and surveillance of CO poisoning are needed to guide prevention efforts. Public health programs should emphasize CO alarm use at home as the main prevention strategy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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