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Authors

  1. Rosenthal, Laura Dorman BSN, RN, CCRN

Abstract

Overview: Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas produced by the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels (oil, kerosene, coal, wood) or the inadequate ventilation of natural gas. When carbon monoxide is introduced into the bloodstream, it binds to hemoglobin, reducing the number of binding sites available for oxygen. Carbon monoxide also changes the structure of the hemoglobin molecule, which makes it even more difficult for oxygen that has attached to be released into tissues. The resulting tissue ischemia can lead to organ failure, permanent changes in cognition, or death. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of death by poisoning in industrialized countries.