Revista de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 0124-0064
TELLEZ, Jairo; RODRIGUEZ, Alba and FAJARDO, álvaro. Carbon monoxide contamination: an environmental health problem. Rev. salud pública [online]. 2006, vol.8, n.1, pp. 108-117. ISSN 0124-0064. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0124-00642006000100010.
Carbon monoxide is considered to be a major factor contaminating earthâs atmosphere. The main sources producing this contamination are cars using gasoline or diesel fuel and industrial processes using carbon compounds; these two are responsible for 80% of carbon monoxide being emitted to the atmosphere. This substance has a well-known toxic effect on human beings and its acute poisonous effects (including death) have been widely studied; however, its long-term chronic effects are still not known. During the last few years, experimental research on animals and studies of human epidemiology have established the relationship between chronic exposure to low and middle levels of carbon monoxide in breathable air and adverse effects on human health, especially on organs consuming large amounts of oxygen such as the heart and brain. Harmful cardiovascular and neuropsychological effects have been documented in carbon monoxide concentration in air of less than 25 ppm and in carboxyhaemoglobin levels in blood of less than 10%. The main cardiac damage described to date has been high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythm and electrocardiograph signs of ischemia. Lack of memory, attention, concentration and Parkinson-type altered movement are the neuropsychological changes most frequently associated with chronic exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide and carboxyhaemoglobin.
Keywords : Carbon monoxide; carboxyhemoglobin; environmental health; public health; toxicology; biologic markers.