Carbon Monoxide Headquarters

CO Support: Survey Study of Chronic CO Poisoning

Findings of the Study:

  • Those suffering from chronic CO poisoning experienced a wide range of symptoms: memory loss, severe muscle pains, headaches, tiredness, dizziness.

  • In many cases, the symptoms continued for years after poisoning ceased. Although some victims recovered completely, a significant fraction remained permanently incapacitated and unable to work.

  • General practice physicians failed to diagnose chronic CO poisoning. In only 1 case out of 77 was poisoning detected on the basis of symptomatology alone.

  • Misdiagnoses included flu, viral infection, depression, chronic fatigue immune deficiency (myalgic encephalitis), and psychosomatic illness.

  • The presence of CO was discovered in the majority of cases by service or investigation of the appliance in question. In some cases warning was given by an alarm or detector; in others by the collapse of a family member.

  • In many cases, regular service of the appliance failed to identify the problem; it may even have occurred on a regular basis for several years.

  • Approximately 70% of chronic CO poisonings took place in the victims homes. More cases occurred in houses than in apartments; many were owner occupied.

  • Two-thirds of victims were women, ages 30 - 45 years in most cases.

  • Few victims were offered blood tests for carboxyhemglobin to determine the severity of the CO poisoning. Where COHb tests were performed, some of the results were misinterpreted by hospitals and physicians.

    ...... last changed 03/17/02

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