Carbon Monoxide is a highly poisonous gas. Because it is colourless, odourless, and tasteless, this toxic gas is impossible for the human senses to detect, and therefore particularly dangerous.
How CO poisons
CO is absorbed into the body by simply breathing. It enters the lungs and attaches itself to haemoglobin in the blood, preventing the blood from absorbing oxygen, starving body tissues of vital oxygen. CO suffocates you from the inside. Prolonged or high level exposure to this toxic gas causes loss of consciousness, brain damage, and possibly death if not medically treated in time.
Poisoning from CO can happen in minutes or over an extended period of time, depending on the amount of CO in the air. It can happen to anyone-young or old, rich or poor-any place in the world. CO can also poison pets and working animals.
Many cases of CO poisoning go undiagnosed or undetected; medical proof requires the blood to be tested when CO is still present. Treatment for CO poisoning includes either flushing from the body with oxygen or hyperbaric treatment. Post mortems in the UK do not routinely check CO levels, whereas in France it is routine for all deceased.
Long term effects
It is estimated that 4,000 people in the UK are seriously poisoned each year by accidental exposure to carbon monoxide with around 40 deaths. Those who survive CO poisoning can suffer long-lasting effects on their health and quality of life, which may not be reversible after high or prolonged exposure to CO, although the exact number of CO poisoning is not known as many cases can be misdiagnosed as flu or workplace illnesses.