Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Excerpts from the book Carbon Monoxide


Chapter 6
Effects of Carbon Monoxide Exposure on Developing
Animals and Humans
by
David G. Penney

Introduction
As is well known, carbon monoxide is an insideous poison, being as it is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and non-corrosive. It readily binds to hemoglobin, preventing oxygen binding and hence decreasing the oxygen transport capability of the cardiovascular system. It also binds to other iron-containing compounds in the body and under certain circumstances may exert its effects strongly directly at the cellular level, i.e. histotoxic.

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Neural Effects
The central nervous system is a major target organ of CO. For a recent review of the neural and behavioral responses to CO, mainly in adult animals and humans, see the book chapter by Penney and White in The Vulnerable Brain and Environmental Risks: Special Hazards from Air and Water (Penney, 1994). Summaries of older studies of the neural effects of CO are seen in Table 8.

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Based up the above discussion, exposure of the developing fetus to CO produces pathological changes to the brain (Ginsberg & Myers, 1974; Okeda et al., 1986; Daughtrey & Norton, 1982; Daughtrey et al., 1983) and peripheral nerves (Carratu et al., 1993a; Carratu et al., 1993b), and alterations in brain growth (i.e. weight) (Storm & Fechter, 1985a; Storm et al., 1986), neurotransmitter concentration and/or content (Storm & Fechter, 1985a; Storm & Fechter, 1985b; Storm et al., 1986), GABAergic neurons (Fechter, 1987), enzyme activity (Packianathan et al., 1993), and immunity (Giustino et al., 1993).

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Human Studies
Relatively few studies of the fetal effects of CO exposure are available. Unfortunately most of those available are anecdotal-case studies which provide little insight into the mechanisms underlying observed dysfunction. Koren et al. (1991) reviewed the older literature, finding more than a dozen reports beginning in 1929 of human fetal/infant effects of CO poisoning during pregnancy (Table 10). Table 11 presents a summary of some recent published CO poisoning cases involving pregnancy.


Source: CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL., 1996.


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