Home Inspector Joseph Tribuzio 450.003128 Serving the greater Chicago area of Illinois
CARBON MONOXIDE IS A SILENT KILLER -
Carbon monoxide, with the chemical formula CO, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. It consists of one carbon atom covalently bonded to one oxygen atom. There are 2 covalent bonds and a dative covalent bond between the oxygen and carbon atom which comes from the oxygen.
Carbon monoxide is a significantly toxic gas, although patients may demonstrate varied clinical manifestations with different outcomes, even under similar exposure conditions. Toxicity is also increased by several factors, including: increased activity and rate of ventilation, pre-existing cerebral or cardiovascular disease, reduced cardiac output, anemia or other hematological disorders, decreased barometric pressure, and high metabolic rate.
Under ordinary conditions, it is less dense than air, but during fires, it accumulates on the ground, so that if poisoning causes loss of consciousness, the amount of carbon monoxide inhaled increases and the possibility of fatality is radically increased.
Carbon monoxide is life-threatening to humans and other aerobic forms of life, as inhaling even relatively small amounts of it can lead to hypoxic injury, neurological damage, and possibly death. A concentration of as little as 0.04% (400 parts per million) carbon monoxide in the air can be fatal. The gas is especially dangerous because it is not easily detected by human senses. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include drowsiness and headache, followed by unconsciousness, respiratory failure, and death. First aid for a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning requires access to fresh air; administration of artificial respiration and, if available, oxygen; and, as soon as possible, medical attention.
When carbon monoxide is inhaled, it takes the place of oxygen in hemoglobin, the red blood pigment that normally carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Because carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin several hundred times more strongly than oxygen, its effects are cumulative and long-lasting, causing oxygen starvation throughout the body. Prolonged exposure to fresh air (or pure oxygen) is required for the CO-tainted hemoglobin (carboxyhemoglobin) to clear.
The effects of carbon monoxide in parts per million are listed below: