Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas generated during the combustions of carbon-containing fuels. When inhaled into the lungs, it readily competes with oxygen for binding sites on hemoglobin. The affinity for carbon monoxide binding to hemoglobin is more than 200-fold greater than that for oxygen. Thus, at atmospheric concentrations as low as 0.1%, carbon monoxide will achieve a 50% saturation of the hemoglobin, resulting in carboxyhemoglobinemia and a significant reduction in the blood oxygen levels.
Acute carbon monoxide poisoning as, for example, following exposure to automobile exhaust (which generates about 5–7% carbon monoxide) will rapidly saturate the hemoglobin and cause death within minutes with virtually no prior symptoms.
Exposure to low concentrations of carbon monoxide consequent to the operation of faulty furnaces or gas-powered engines is the leading cause of...