Blood Test For Carbon Monoxide Level And Poisoning

Submitted on March 27, 2012

A toxic gas, which is both colorless and odorless, carbon monoxide is usually produced as a by product of combustion. Inhalation of large levels of this gas is dangerous for the human body.

How is Carbon Monoxide Generated?

Carbon monoxide is generally produced from appliances that use fuel. Some of the common appliances that produce carbon monoxide are water heaters, gas stoves, automobiles, grills that use charcoal, wood stoves and yard equipment. For the production of carbon monoxide, heaters used in homes are mostly to be blamed. Due to incomplete combustion in these heaters, carbon monoxide is produced.

Generally the carbon monoxide poisoning levels are 50 parts per million for healthy adults. This exposure however, has to be for a continuous period of about eight hours. If the levels of carbon monoxide become higher than that, it can become fatal.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The blood's ability to carry oxygen is greatly affected due to carbon monoxide exposure. Due to exposure to carbon monoxide, hemoglobin of the blood forms carboxyhemoglobin which is a compound that doesn't have the ability to carry oxygen. Carbon monoxide therefore makes hemoglobin unavailable to the body.

The concentration of the gas greatly affects the amount of carboxyhemoglobin that is created. The half life of carboxyhemoglobin in blood is quite high. It takes some time for the carboxyhemoglobin to return to the normal state.

Since this gas is both colorless and odorless, it is not easy to detect it. The common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning like fatigue, nausea, and headaches are usually mistaken for flu.

Some of the high risk behavior that could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning is:

  • Spending long durations enclosed in an automobile, especially pick up trucks that are enclosed. This is a particularly common behavior with chauffeurs and truck drivers and therefore they are especially at risk.
  • Firefighters and other personnel who have prolonged exposure to flames.
  • Workers in steel foundries and coke.
  • Those who work at paper pulp mills, and plants where fuel is produced or refined are also at high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Prolonged use of electric generators and heaters in a closed room can produce huge quantities of carbon monoxide gas. These appliances use up the oxygen and instead form carbon monoxide.
  • Improper ventilation in a closed and small room. This is especially true for areas where engines are running, like small boats. Both humans and their pets can get carbon monoxide poisoning. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, it is recommended that you rush to the hospital immediately to get yourself checked.