Other Conditions & Exposures

Expert reports about Other Conditions & Exposures


INFORMATION FOR WOMEN WHO ARE BEING EXPOSED TO, OR HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO CARBON MONOXIDE DURING PREGNANCY OR BREASTFEEDING

 

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that is created as a result of the incomplete combustion of carbon-based products, such as coal or gas. Each molecule of CO consists of one atom of carbon bound with one atom of oxygen. This molecular arrangement causes CO to take the place of molecular oxygen (O2) in binding to the hemoglobin (Hb) molecules of red blood cells (RBCs), and also to similar molecules, such as myoglobin (which stores O2 in muscle cells), neuroglobin (which stores O2 in nervous tissue), and certain “heme” molecules which are vital to the generation of energy inside mitochondria, the powerplant organelles within body cells. In other words, carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the body. Because CO sticks much more tightly than O2 to all these molecules and prevents O2 from doing its job in the body, CO acts as a poison. CO poisoning, also called toxicity, usually comes from a single large exposure to CO, which can happen during pregnancy, and to people who are not pregnant. When pregnant, however, you are more susceptible to the effects of CO exposure.

Some sources of CO include: unvented kerosene and gas space heaters; leaking chimneys and furnaces; back-drafting from furnaces, gas water heaters, woodstoves, and fireplaces; gas stoves; generators and other gasoline powered equipment; automobile exhaust from attached garages; and tobacco smoke.


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