Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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The impact of catalytic converters on motor vehicle exhaust gas suicides.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the trends in motor vehicle exhaust gas suicides since 1970 and to investigate the impact of catalytic converters.

DESIGN: Australia-wide database analyses and a retrospective stratified series of 100 Victorian cases.

DATA SOURCES: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1970-1995; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, National Injury Surveillance Unit, 1991/92-1995/96; Victorian Coroner's files, 1994-1996.

RESULTS: There were 509 motor vehicle exhaust gas suicides in Australia in 1995, representing 22% of total suicides. Since the 1986 requirements for reduced carbon monoxide emissions from new vehicles (and thus the use of catalytic converters), the absolute numbers and rates of such suicides have increased, and they have come to represent a larger percentage of total suicides. Of 75 Victorian victims' vehicles traced, 36% were manufactured during or after 1986, showing that exhaust gas suicides have occurred in vehicles with catalytic converters. Blood carboxyhaemoglobin levels did not differ between victims using vehicles with or without catalytic converters. Between 1976 and 1991 exhaust gas suicides increased at a faster rate than motor vehicle registrations. Australian hospital admissions for exhaust gas suicide attempts have increased substantially since 1991-1992.

CONCLUSION: Catalytic converters and the associated lower CO emission limits of 9.3 g/km had not, by 1995, resulted in a reduction in numbers, rates or percentages of exhaust gas suicides in Australia.

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