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POLLUTANTS voc

CARBON MONOXIDE

Carbon monoxide is particularly important among the pollutants produced by combustion. It is a toxic, colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating gas which, without adequate ventilation, can reach high concentrations.

It is produced by incomplete combustion of any organic material, in the presence of low oxygen content in the environment. Due to its characteristics it can be inhaled in a subtle and imperceptible way, until reaching lethal concentrations in the body. The CO present in the air of confined spaces comes mainly from tobacco smoke and from combustion sources not equipped with suitable extraction (portable kerosene and gas radiators, boilers, water heaters, fireplaces and wood or gas stoves). Carbon monoxide can also come from outside when the room is attached to a garage or a car repair shop or near roads with heavy vehicular traffic.

Health effects

Inhaled carbon monoxide (CO) binds with hemoglobin, a protein found in the red blood cells and used to transport oxygen, forming carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). In this way the CO prevents the normal transport of oxygen to the peripheral tissues, leading to toxicological effects of varying degrees.

Even in low concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause heart failure for people with heart problems. At higher concentrations, headache, confusion, disorientation, dizziness, impaired vision and nausea occur. Particularly high concentrations can cause coma and death by asphyxia. The severity of clinical manifestations due to CO poisoning depends on its concentration in the inspired air, on the duration of exposure and on the health conditions of the persons involved.

The elderly, people with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, pregnant women, newborns and children in general are particularly susceptible.

WARNING!

About 80% of the cases of CO poisoning detected by emergency departments occur within the home. In Italy the most recent official statistics report 500-600 deaths a year, of which about 2/3 for voluntary poisoning. These figures certainly underestimate the true extent of the phenomenon since many cases of intoxication, especially accidental ones or non-fatal cases, are not correctly diagnosed. Much has been discussed about the existence of a chronic CO poisoning situation. In some subjects exposed for a long time to the absorption of small quantities of the pollutant, a symptomatology characterized by asthenia, headache, vertigo, neuritis, parkinsonian and epileptic syndromes, arrhythmias, anginal crises was described.

Health effects

Inhaled carbon monoxide (CO) binds with hemoglobin, a protein found in the red blood cells and used to transport oxygen, forming carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). In this way the CO prevents the normal transport of oxygen to the peripheral tissues, leading to toxicological effects of varying degrees.

Even in low concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause heart failure for people with heart problems. At higher concentrations, headache, confusion, disorientation, dizziness, impaired vision and nausea occur. Particularly high concentrations can cause coma and death by asphyxia. The severity of clinical manifestations due to CO poisoning depends on its concentration in the inspired air, on the duration of exposure and on the health conditions of the persons involved.

The elderly, people with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, pregnant women, newborns and children in general are particularly susceptible.

WARNING!

About 80% of the cases of CO poisoning detected by emergency departments occur within the home. In Italy the most recent official statistics report 500-600 deaths a year, of which about 2/3 for voluntary poisoning. These figures certainly underestimate the true extent of the phenomenon since many cases of intoxication, especially accidental ones or non-fatal cases, are not correctly diagnosed. Much has been discussed about the existence of a chronic CO poisoning situation. In some subjects exposed for a long time to the absorption of small quantities of the pollutant, a symptomatology characterized by asthenia, headache, vertigo, neuritis, parkinsonian and epileptic syndromes, arrhythmias, anginal crises was described.

Measures to reduce exposure

Heating

Heating systems must undergo regular maintenance by specialized personnel.

Vehicles

Automotive engines should be kept in closed spaces.

Cooking

Cooking systems designed for use in the open air must not be used in enclosed spaces.

Equipment

The use of equipment that detects the presence of CO2 can be encouraged, but it should not be considered an alternative to proper maintenance of the systems.

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