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.
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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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