Carbon monoxide

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Carbon monoxide is a gas which is made up from one oxygen and one carbon atom giving it the chemical formula of CO. The gas is colourless and cannot be smelt which can make it particularly dangerous due to the fact that it is extremely toxic to Humans [1].

It is toxic to humans due to the fact that it has an extremely high affinity for haemoglobin, 250 times more than oxygen[2], and it can even dissociate oxygen from its bind to haemoglobin. This causes the body a shortage of oxygen in the blood, therefore the brain is starved of oxygen and death can occur due to suffocation.

To treat carbon monoxide poisoning the patient must be removed from the area of carbon monoxide exposure and 100% oxygen is administered which speeds up the removal of carbon monoxide from haemoglobin. Also Hyperbaric oxygen can be administered which is at 3 times the atmospheric pressure of normal oxygen and this can reduce the carbon monoxides half-life therefore dissociating it quicker from the haemoglobin allowing more oxygen to enter the blood.[3]


  1. Information forCarbon Monoxide Poisoning N Engl J Med 1998; 339:16031608
  2. Information for Carbon monoxide binding -
  3. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
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