Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a deadly condition. It results from inhaling carbon monoxide gas. Carbon monoxide is produced when gas, wood, charcoal, or other fuel is burned. It often builds up when fuel-burning heating and cooking devices are faulty or not properly vented. A car engine can also produce carbon monoxide, as can cigarette smoking. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas. People can inhale it without knowing.

Once the gas is inhaled, it is easily absorbed through the lungs. Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood to the entire body. Carbon monoxide binds tightly with hemoglobin and takes the place of the oxygen. Tissue then becomes starved for oxygen. Brain tissue is very much at risk.

Carbon Monoxide Binding to Hemoglobin
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Inhaling carbon monoxide gas causes carbon monoxide poisoning.

People can be exposed to the gas when fuel-burning appliances are broken or are not vented properly. For instance:

  • If a vent pipe has a hole, carbon monoxide can escape into the house.
  • Using a barbecue grill or camp stove indoors can cause a build-up.
  • Running a car engine with the garage door closed will cause a build-up.