What is carbon monoxide and why is it so dangerous?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless and odorlesss gas that is less dense than air.
Carbon monoxide consists of one carbon atom and one oxygen atom, connected by a triple bond that consists of two covalent bonds as well as one dative covalent bond.
The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “ flu-like. ”
CO is found in fumes produced any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, .... Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO.
How can I prevent CO poisoning in my home?
- Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home
- Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year
- If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator have an expert service it.
- Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly.
- Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year.
- Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors.
Why carbon monoxide is dangerous: It forms a stable complex with hemoglobin.
Hemoglobin is a blood pigment found in RBCs (red blood cells) that binds loosely to oxygen and carbon dioxide.
As a person breathes, hemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to other tissues, and carbon dioxide from tissues to the lungs.
It is essential that this binding is loose. Or else, gas exchange in the lungs and in body tissue cannot occur easily.
When a person inhales carbon monoxide, it forms a tight complex with hemoglobin, known as carboxyhemoglobin. This complex is very stable. This means that there is decreased availability of free hemoglobin to bind oxygen or carbon dioxide, resulting in suffocation.