Carbon Monoxide Headquarters

Chronic CO Poisoning:

Retrospective Case Series:

Beck, Harvey G., 1936

In the 1930's Harvey G. Beck, M.D., was convinced that chronic CO poisoning could be hazardous to health. He noted that deaths from CO poisoning at that time, both accidental and through suicide, were second only to those from automobile accidents. In New York City during the 5-year period from 1928-1932, there were 5,289 deaths involving CO.

He went on to say, "No noxious gas so potent when inhaled in atmospheric dilutions of 1% or even less as to cause almost instantaneous death can be incapable of producing symptoms if inhaled in lesser concentration over a longer period of time." Thus, he maintained a belief in the toxic effects of CO even at lower concentrations.

Furthermore, Dr. Beck believed there were three clinical forms of CO poisoning:

  • Sudden onset of symptoms due to high CO concentrations.
  • Acute form with delayed symptoms or sequelae, involving apparent recovery, then severe nervous symptoms.
  • The chronic form.

    He conducted a retrospective study of patients coming to him for CO poisoning over a period of time. The study included 97 patients - 67 men and 30 women. Forty-nine were from West Virginia, 37 from Maryland, and the rest from five other states.

    The sources of CO encountered by his patients were:

    Natural gas (43)
    Illuminating gas (28)
    Automobiles/engines (24)
    Blast furnace (1)
    Coke oven (1)
    Exposure modes were continuous or intermittent, while duration was from several months to 18 years.

    List of Symptoms

    From: Beck, H.G. (1936) Carbon monoxide asphyxiation: A neglected clinical problem. J. Am. Med. Assoc., 107, 1025-1029.

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

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