Epidemiol Health.  2020;42(1):e2020062. 10.4178/epih.e2020062.

Trends of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in Korea, 1951-2018

  • 1Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Suwon, Korea


Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from coal briquette combustion has been a major public health problem in Korea. In this study, we estimated the time trends of the consumption of anthracite coal and the number of CO poisoning victims over the past 7 decades, in the context of changes in heating facilities.
Using Population and Housing Census data and energy statistics, we estimated the number of houses using briquettes as heating fuel between 1951 and 2018. After estimating the incidence of CO poisoning in housing units by heating facility type, we determined the ratio of the number of household members who experienced CO poisoning to the overall number of household members. Finally, we estimated the distribution of the victims according to poisoning severity, excluding victims of intentional exposure.
We estimated that, overall, over 26 million people experienced CO poisoning between 1951 and 2018 in Korea. The household consumption of anthracite peaked in 1986, but the number of victims of CO poisoning peaked at approximately 1 million people in 1980. From 1951 to 2018, the cumulative number of CO poisoning victims comprised approximately 22,830,000 mild cases, 3,570,000 severe cases, and 65,000 deaths.
The peak in the number of CO poisoning victims occurred 6 years earlier than the peak in the number of people using briquettes for heating. This gap resulted from improvements in briquette heating systems. This finding provides a quantitative basis for epidemiological studies on the health outcomes of CO poisoning in the Korean population.


Carbon monoxide poisoning; Coal; Briquette gas poisoning; Time trend; Mortality; Morbidity
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