Nov 15 2016
The source of the Evanston carbon monoxide poisoning yesterday was apparently a blocked furnace exhaust vent, according to the Chicago Tribune. The news about the event consistently reported levels of 200 ppm in the Evanston two-flat when the firefighters measured carbon monoxide levels. The normal level of carbon monoxide that should be in the home is between zero and two ppm. Alarms will start to sound at 35 ppm, according to the Evanston Fire Department division chief.
Although reports state that everyone appears to be ok, the people involved could possibly have serious ongoing problems. For children, if there were any involved, would have even greater consequences since the immature brain is more susceptible to carbon monoxide than the adult brain. The carbon monoxide exposure damages cells in two ways. First, it starves cells of oxygen. Second, it leaves behind a toxin that acts as slow poison, which continues to cause damage months after the incident.
A condition called delayed neurological sequelae (DNS) results in victims getting much sicker over weeks after hospital discharge. Memory and concentration may be impacted as well as vision and balance. Behavioral extremes (acting out) may become more common. Depression and anxiety are also risk factors. Brain damage tends to evolve over the days and weeks after the poisoning. Behavioral and neurological deficits worsen two to 40 days after poisoning.
DNS is believed to be caused by brain lipid peroxidation which may be caused by carbon monoxide triggering nitric oxide formation in the blood. There is a treatment that reduces brain lipid peroxidation, and thus decreases cognitive sequelae. This treatment is hyperbaric oxygen therapy. The treatment has been studied to be effective in reducing longer term cognitive sequelae when administered 24 hours after acute carbon monoxide poisoning. It is a medical treatment that enhances the body’s innate healing power by inhaling 100 percent oxygen in a chamber where pressure is increased and controlled.