Carbon monoxide poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the most widely distributed and most frequent of industrial accidents. The gas is a product of incomplete combustion and is without color, odor, or taste; therefore, its presence is frequently unsuspected many places where it exists. It is an ever-present danger about blast and coke furnaces and foundries. It may be found in a building having a leaky furnace or chimney or a gas stove without flue connection, such as a tenement, tailors hop, or boarding house. Hospitals receive a great number of victims of poisoning, whether by accident or in an attempt at suicide, from artificial illuminating gas. Persons may be affected by leaks wherever water gas is formed or used. The exhaust gases of gasoline automobiles contain from 4 to 12 per cent of carbon monoxide, and in closed garages men are not infrequently found dead beside a running motor. A similar danger may arise from gasoline engines in launches. The gas is formed also in stoke rooms, in gun turrets on battleships, in petroleum refineries, and in the Leblanc soda process it in cement and brick plants. In underground work carbon monoxide may appear as the result of shot firing, mine explosions, or mine fires, or in tunnels from automobile exhausts or from coal or oil burning locomotives.
Carbon monoxide poisoning exerts its extremely dangerous action on the body by displacing oxygen from its combination with hemoglobin. Hemoglobin, the coloring matter of the blood, normally absorbs oxygen from the air in the lungs and (I delivers it to the different tissues of the body. The affinity of carbon monoxide for hemoglobin is about 300 times that of oxygen. Because of this, even when only a small amount of the poisonous gas is present in the air breathed into the lungs, much of the hemoglobin is locked up ill combination with carbon monoxide and so can not keep up its usual work of carrying oxygen to the tissues. These, because of the lack of oxygen, can not do their work properly. If they are smothered long, enough, the tissue cells become damaged, and the injury to the cells may be permanent even if the patient survive. It has been asserted that carbon monoxide has a specific poisonous action on some tissues of the body, especially those of the nervous system, but there is little evidence in favor of this statement and much against it.
Haggard and Henderson found that there was no change in the rate of growth of chick brain tissue, even when it was exposed to an atmosphere containing over 70 per cent of carbon monoxide, and it has been shown many times that animals without red blood (hemoglobin) can live in Atmospheres containing high concentrations without apparent harmful effects. Recently this was demonstrated at the Pittsburgh experiment station of the United States Bureau of Mines, when some roaches were kept for several days in -an atmosphere of over 60 per cent carbon monoxide and 20 per cent oxygen without lessening their activities.