Air Quality and Health and Welfare

2.4 Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide -- an odorless, invisible gas created when fuels containing carbon are burned incompletely -- poses a serious threat to human health. Persons afflicted with heart disease and fetuses are especially at risk. Because the affinity of hemoglobin in the blood is 200 times greater for carbon monoxide than for oxygen, carbon monoxide hinders oxygen transport from blood into tissues. Therefore, more blood must be pumped to deliver the same amount of oxygen. Numerous studies in humans and animals have demonstrated that those individuals with weak hearts are placed under additional strain by the presence of excess CO in the blood. In particular, clinical health studies have shown a decrease in time to onset of angina pain in those individuals suffering from angina pectoris and exposed to elevated levels of ambient CO (Aronow, Ferlinz, & Glauser, 1977 and , Ferris, 1978).

Healthy individuals also are affected, but only at higher levels. Exposure to elevated CO levels is associated with impairment of visual perception, work capacity, manual dexterity, learning ability and performance of complex tasks (“Air Quality Criteria For Carbon Monoxide”, 1999).