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Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 390–394 | Cite as

Forensic aspects of carbon monoxide poisoning by charcoal burning in Denmark, 2008–2012: an autopsy based study

  • Pia Rude Nielsen
  • Alexandra Gheorghe
  • Niels Lynnerup
Original Article

Abstract

Carbon monoxide (CO) inhalation is a well-known method of committing suicide. There has been a drastic increase in suicide by inhalation of CO, produced from burning charcoal, in some parts of Asia, and a few studies have reported an increased number of these deaths in Europe. CO-related deaths caused by charcoal burning have, to our knowledge, not been recorded in the Danish population before. In this retrospective study we present all autopsied cases of CO poisoning caused by charcoal burning in the period 2008–2012. 19 autopsied cases were identified, comprising 11 suicides, 4 accidents, and 2 cases of maternal/paternal filicide-suicide. The mean age of decedents was 38.2 years and the majority of the decedents were men. In 16 cases carboxyhemoglobin levels were above 50 % and in 14 cases we found distinctive cherry red livor mortis. Various concentrations of ethanol and drugs were found in 9 cases. Data suggest that this method of death has increased significantly in Denmark. Therefore, it is highly relevant to draw attention to the subject, to increase awareness as well as prevent future escalation.

Keywords

Carbon monoxide poisoning Suicide Maternal/paternal filicide-suicide Charcoal burning Disposable charcoal barbeques 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We wish to thank Asser Hedegaard Thomsen, MD, at the Department of Forensic Medicine Aarhus and Peter Thiis Knudsen, MD at the Department of Forensic Medicine Odense for their assistance in data collecting. The authors would also like to thank forensic toxicologist at the three Departments of Forensic Medicine in Denmark.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pia Rude Nielsen
    • 1
  • Alexandra Gheorghe
    • 1
  • Niels Lynnerup
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Laboratory of Biological Anthropology, Department of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, The Panum InstituteUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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