Carbon monoxide from neighbouring restaurants: the need for an integrated multi-agency response
C. Keshishian, Environmental Public Health Scientist1⇓, H. Sandle, Health Protection Nurse2, M. Meltzer, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control3, Y. Young, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control4, R. Ward, Pollution (Technical) Team5 and S. Balasegaram, Consultant in Communicable Disease Control2
Author Affiliations 1Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, Health Protection Agency, Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SZ, UK 2North East and North Central London Health Protection Unit, Health Protection Agency, Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SZ, UK 3North West London Health Protection Unit, Health Protection Agency, 61 Colindale Avenue, London NW9 5EQ, UK 4South West London Health Protection Unit, Health Protection Agency, Springfield University Hospital, 61 Glenburnie Road, London SW17 7DU, UK 5Pollution Team, Regulatory Services, London Borough of Ealing, 14-16 Uxbridge Road, London W5 2HL, UK Address correspondence to C. Keshishian, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
Working with local authorities, these incidents were investigated and resolved, and work was conducted to prevent further occurrences.
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.