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What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Author: Paul Granberg, Issue: October 2004, Topic: Household

Carbon Monoxide is a gas given off during 'incomplete combustion'. You can recognise when incomplete combustion is occurring from the presence of a yellow flame, and soot coming out of the heater. Usually this occurs for a number of reasons. Poor maintenance, poor ventilation (clogged filters), poor quality fuel, incorrect operation and bad design are a few of these factors.

When you breathe air in, hemoglobin on the surface of the blood cells, picks up Oxygen (O2) from the air in your lungs. The blood is then circulated around your body, and when the blood reaches muscle or other tissue, the hemoglobin releases the Oxygen for the tissue cells to use. It then returns to the lungs with Carbon Dioxide (C02).

When you inhale Carbon Monoxide (CO), it permanently bonds with the hemoglobin on the blood cells, and prevents the blood from circulating Oxygen around the body.

The symptoms of poisoning include:

  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • symptoms similar to the 'flu
  • dizziness
  • mental confusion
  • fainting

Extreme levels of Carbon Monoxide (CO) in the air can cause unconsciousness, coma and death within minutes.

If you suspect that you have Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning, get to fresh air IMMEDIATELY and then seek urgent medical help. Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning can be diagnosed with a simple blood test soon after exposure.

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