Acute Health Effects of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that inhibits blood’s ability to carry oxygen to vital organs like the heart and brain. When a person inhales the odorless and tasteless gas that combines with hemoglobin and forms carboxyhemoglobin (COHb), this prevents hemoglobin from its purpose of carrying oxygen to the organs. Carbon monoxide is about 250 times more likely than oxygen to bind to hemoglobin. (Bauer & Pannen 2009) This leads to lower oxygen in the arteries and tissue hypoxia. There is a biological threshold (~ 15 to 20%) that allows for some carboxyhemoglobin in the blood stream and any level above this will lead to severe carbon monoxide symptoms. (Clayton et al., 2001) Those that are more susceptible to the toxin are children, the elderly, persons suffering from cardiovascular disease, chronic pulmonary disease (COPD), heavy smokers, and persons suffering from anemia. (Weaver, 1999)
Organs that are especially vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning are the brain and heart. This is due to their elevated metabolic rate from other organs. The health effects of carbon monoxide poisoning greatly depends upon the concentration of carbon monoxide that is inhaled over a period of time. There are over 40,000 visits to United States emergency rooms every year with patients suffering varying levels of carbon monoxide poisoning. (Weaver et al., 2002) Carbon monoxide poisoning is a very serious health problem that is an indiscriminate killer and occurs largely in the winter months and after natural disasters.
The concentration of carbon monoxide that is still suitable to for workplace exposure is 35 parts per million (ppm), according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). At 200 ppm and an exposure time of two to three hours patients typically have a slight headache, tiredness, nausea, muscle fatigue, and dizziness. These symptoms persist throughout all exposure levels, however the...
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