Background: Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless toxic gas produced during incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels. Most CO incidents reported to the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA) are due to faulty gas appliances, and legislation exists to ensure gas appliances are properly installed. Methods: We present three CO poisoning incidents of unusual origin reported to the HPA. In each, residents living above restaurants were poisoned after workers left charcoal smouldering overnight in specialist or traditional ovens whilst ventilation systems were turned off. This led to production of CO, which travelled through floorboards and built up to dangerous concentrations in the flats. Results: Working with local authorities, these incidents were investigated and resolved, and work was conducted to prevent further occurrences. Conclusions: The novel nature of these CO incidents led to delays in recognition and subsequent remedial action. Although previously undescribed, it is likely that due to the number of residences built above restaurants and the rising popularity of traditional cooking methods, similar incidents may be occurring and could increase in frequency. Multi-agency response and reporting mechanisms could be strengthened. Awareness raising in professional groups and the public on the importance of correct ventilation of such appliances is vital.
- air quality
- public health