Tuesday, January 13, 2009
CO intoxication also occurs by inhalation of methylene chloride vapors. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas produced by incomplete combustion of carbonaceous material. Natural gas contains no CO, but improperly vented gas water heaters, kerosene space heaters, charcoal grills, hibachis, and Sterno stoves all emit CO. People die accidentally every year from CO poisoning caused by malfunctioning or improperly used fuel-burning appliances.
CO binds to cardiac myoglobin with an even greater affinity than to hemoglobin; the resulting myocardial depression and hypotension exacerbates the tissue hypoxia. An ambient CO level of 100 ppm produces an HbCO of 16% at equilibration, which is enough to produce clinical symptoms. CO reversibly binds hemoglobin, resulting in relative anemia. Because it binds hemoglobin 230-270 times more avidly than oxygen, even small concentrations can result in significant levels of carboxyhemoglobin (HbCO). CO toxicity causes impaired oxygen delivery and utilization at the cellular level. CO has its most profound impact on the brain (brain lipid peroxidation and leukocyte-mediated inflammatory changes) and heart (cardiac metabolism) the highest oxygen requirement.
You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide, but at high levels CO can kill a person in minutes. Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. At moderate levels, you or your family can get severe headaches, become dizzy, mentally confused, nauseated, or faint. You can even die if these levels persist for a long time. Low levels can cause shortness of breath, mild nausea, and mild headaches, and may have longer term effects on your health. Since many of these symptoms are similar to those of the flu, food poisoning, or other illnesses, you may not think that CO poisoning could be the cause.
Seek medical care if symptoms are present . Explain that you think you may have been exposed to carbon monoxide. The doctor may give you oxygen until your symptoms go away and CO levels in your blood drop.