The Long Term Effects Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Most of us know that there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in our homes and offices. We know that carbon monoxide is also called the silent killer because it is so easy to have unknown prolonged exposure and die in your sleep. Acute poisoning is very quick, which is why there are still so many suicide attempts with people who run their exhaust fumes into their vehicle. However, studies in experimental settings have focused mainly on the short term effects. The long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, therefore, are still very unclear.
One of the reasons for this is that the long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are hard to determine due to the fact that it is unknown how long people have been exposed and to which levels they have been exposed. Because of this, there is little to no control measure in place. Essentially, it can either be acute severe intoxication, but it can also be low level chronic exposure. Because of this, it is very difficult to determine the long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning and to determine whether any ill-health effects have been caused by the acute exposure, the chronic exposure or both. There is some evidence that has suggested that chronic exposure to carbon monoxide has some mild neurological consequences. However, none of these studies have provided any conclusive evidence. However, although the correlation has not been proven yet, the evidence for this issue is becoming bigger over time.
Long Term Effects of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Severe Exposure
The acute effects of severe carbon monoxide exposure are very well understood. Effectively, the carbon monoxide competes with oxygen in the body for sites to bond on the hemoglobin in the blood. Because of this, the dissociation curve shifts left, thereby reducing the way the body transports and releases oxygen. It is believed that the long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning are mainly long term effects of oxygen starvation.
A number of different effects are noticed on health. The subject was reviewed by the World Health Organization and their findings were reported to the Environmental Health Criteria 213. They determined that if sever poisoning leads to a period of loss of consciousness, it is likely for long lasting or even permanent neurological damage to occur. However, most people will be able to recover eventually. Because the brain remains an uncharted territory, it isn't entirely clear how the damage to neurological pathways actually occurs. However, it is believed that an inflammatory response takes place, which is one of the long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.
This is believed to take place when the recovery or reperfusion phase starts to happen, when the blood suddenly carries a lot of oxygen to the tissues that were hypoxic up to this point. Reperfusion is known to play a major role in myocardial infarction damage. Furthermore, the long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning could lead to the release of free radicals, which can cause lipoperoxidation. This is what happens when inflammatory mediators are released, leading to an influx of neutrophils on a chemotactic gradient. In this case, widespread damage can occur and the corpus striatum has been shown to be at particular risk of damage. Again, it isn't entirely understood why this part of the human anatomy is at such an increased risk. However, the consensus is that many parts of the striatum are located very near to the arterial supply, particularly from the middle and anterior cerebral arteries.
If this arterial blood supply is affected, the effects can be very serious. Besides this, it is known that the striatum consumes a lot of oxygen. The understanding is that this is why many people with exposure to carbon monoxide start to exhibit symptoms often compared to Parkinson's disease, which includes problems with memory, intellectual deterioration and significant changes in the stability of a patient's emotions. The assumption, however, is that this can only happen if poisoning has been very severe.
The Long Term Effects of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Short Term Exposure
Short term exposure is very different, particularly if the exposure was to high concentrations of carbon monoxide. It is known that the long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning in this case include a change in the intellectual functioning of the patient. A voluntary test was devised by a scientist and his scientist son, who purposely exposed themselves to carbon monoxide. Here, they found they were less capable of performing arithmetic calculations. During the experiment, they also measured their levels of carboxyhemaglobin, which continue to rise through the period. However, they both noted a complete recover of their mental functioning. Some other experiments have taken place and all have concluded that transient or short term exposure to carbon monoxide does not have long term ill effects on a person's health, their brain in particular. Furthermore, because most exposures are in fact short term, usually only lasting for a few hours, it is believed that this is the most conclusive and appropriate research, since people will best be able to relate to it.
The Long Term Effects of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Recent Developments
There have been some new developments and studies, and they have suggested that being exposed to low concentrations of carbon monoxide for lengthy periods of times (months rather than days) may have effects on the brain too. If this research on the long term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning is true, this could be a very worrying trend. This is because long term exposure to low levels is quite common, particularly because it often comes from a malfunctioning heating device.
In the current economic climate, people simply do not have the means to have their heating devices checked and serviced regularly. Usually, when people start to report headaches and general feelings of malaise, they also note that recovery is quite quick as soon as exposure ceases. Hence, people often find they feel ill at home, but fine at work or when they are on holiday and think nothing else of it. The reality could be, however, that permanent neurological damage has actually taken place. Some researchers even suggest that there are negative effects on intellectual functioning, which are also common and could mean that a full recovery is actually never achieved.