The answers to some FAQs about the side effects of carbon monoxide poisoning will make you aware of the threat it poses to human health. Continue reading for more information on this harmful gas, and its effects on the human body.
Carbon monoxide is one of the leading causes of injury and death in the world, with as many as 40,000 people treated for the same every year in the United States alone. It is virtually impossible to determine the total number of cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, as most of the cases of mild exposure go undetected as the effects of poisoning in these cases are usually misdiagnosed for temporary illness such as flu. However, exposure at 100 ppm or greater is considered dangerous for human health, and has the tendency to result in fatality if prompt medical attention is not provided at the earliest.
Basically, carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas which is produced as a result of incomplete combustion of organic matter with insufficient supply of oxygen to facilitate complete oxidation of carbon dioxide. Contrary to the popular myth, this toxic gas is not just produced by industries and old vehicles, but also produced in domestic settings by heaters, cooking equipment, etc. Carbon monoxide poisoning refers to the toxic condition that arises as a result of inhaling and absorbing this gas. The fact that it is colorless, odorless and tasteless makes it very difficult to determine the presence of this toxic gas in the atmosphere, and that in turn makes people even more vulnerable to this health hazard.
How Does Carbon Monoxide Affect the Human Health?
Basically, the effects of carbon monoxide exposure on the human body are yet to be deciphered, which means we are left with no option but to rely on assumptions to determine its effects on us. It is predominantly considered dangerous as it tends to hamper the ability of the blood to carry oxygen to different parts of the body. When we inhale CO, it tends to bind with hemoglobin – which happens to be the oxygen-carrying compound in blood, and produces a new compound referred to as ‘carboxyhemoglobin’. This compound is of no use as it cannot facilitate the transportation of oxygen within the body. Lack of oxygen can result in death of cells and eventually damage to the major organs, at times resulting in death of the individual.
It is very difficult to determine how long these effects will last; with some people showing exposure symptoms even a month after they were exposed to this harmful gas. This can be attributed to the fact that some long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning on the human body are attributed to the ability of this toxic gas to bind with the hemeprotein myoglobin to a certain extent. When CO binds with myoglobin it is stored in the body, and released at a later stage – as a result of which some symptoms of exposure to this toxic gas start surfacing after some time. Long term effects of exposure to carbon monoxide also include memory loss and severe damage to the brain.
One can get exposed to carbon monoxide and escape without any obvious side effects when the exposure is mild, but exposure at 100 ppm or more can trigger various side effects on the body – ranging from mild headache to death. At exposure of 100 ppm, the person is likely to suffer from mild headache and shortness of breath. These side effects begin increasing as the exposure increases with mild headache turning into severe headache along with nausea, dizziness, fatigue, etc., when the concentration of this toxic gas reaches 200-400 ppm.
In fact, continuous exposure at 400 ppm – for a period of up to 3 hours, can result in life-threatening condition for the individual. The symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure continue to intensify as the exposure or time frame increases. An exposure at 800 ppm can kill the person within a few hours, the same at 1500 ppm can cause death within an hour, at 3000 ppm within half an hour and 6000 ppm within 15 minutes. Furthermore, exposure at 12,000 ppm can result in instant death for the person.
It is difficult to diagnose carbon monoxide poisoning, especially when the exposure is at low level for a prolonged duration. While the person may not even realize that he is vulnerable to such exposure, it can have some serious effects on his psychological and physical health in the long run.