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Doctors need a Device to Screen for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Blog Feb 1 by Mark K. Goldstein, Ph.D.

Doctors need a Device to Screen for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Are Carbon Monoxide Statistics Correct?

No, the problem is grossly underestimating the size of non-fatal carbon monoxide poisoning!

If you look at the literature your will find a key paper by Michael C. Dolan MD., his work showed that 23.6% of those people diagnosed with the Flu at the University of Kentucky Medical Center’s emergency room (ER) in Louisville, KY actually had carbon monoxide poisoning.  Paul Heckerling published several papers showing over 15% people being treated for headaches during winter months in Chicago had carbon monoxide poisoning.  These facts and other studies show that government statistics of 10,000 to 20,000 carbon monoxide injuries per year are greatly underestimating the carbon monoxide poisoning issue because the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic a huge range of common health problems and are simply misdiagnosed.

This underestimate of the real problem misleads officials, survivors and health professionals, almost always leading to the wrong diagnosis.  Therefore there is a need for a low cost non-invasive, breath diagnostic device to be used in emergency rooms and in doctor’s offices.  If this was a part of screening every patient with Flu symptoms we would find many of the people suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning before they suffer permanent brain damage and other serious injuries.  However, most people, exposed to carbon monoxide never go to the doctor or ER.

Many people have been exposed to carbon monoxide and experience symptoms typical of poisoning; however, the overwhelming majority of mild to mid-level poisonings do not end up in doctors’ offices or emergency rooms. These people are also not counted in government statistics.

A large number of carbon monoxide poisoning victims are usually not aware of what caused the problem and think it is just a virus, completely unaware of the real cause.  One family from Georgia went to doctor several times and then to the emergency room several times before a smart nurse suggested carbon monoxide might be the problem.  They had over 20% carboxyhemoglobin (COHb).  These survivors went on to experience a range of health issues such as delayed neurological sequelae.  The damage was very significant but could have been prevented if the first doctor they went to see was aware of the true extent of carbon monoxide poisoning and could screen patients routinely.

As symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be so varied and imitate so many common health issues the link to carbon monoxide exposure is very frequently missed in emergency rooms - and even more commonly missed in clinics and doctors’ offices.

Even when medical attention is sought, perhaps millions of cases are misdiagnosed so the connection to carbon monoxide is never identified, recorded or tracked in any way.

Many survivors never learn they are victims of carbon monoxide poisoning even though they may continue to seek treatment for directly related health issues and experience short term effects, long term effects, neurological problems, endocrine problems, and other health issues - from cellular damage, all without ever knowing the real cause.

Two or more people arriving at the same hospital from the same location with similar symptoms are more likely to be accurately diagnosed. However, a health professional is [much] more likely to think of a microbial cause, drug interaction, or drug overdose than CO poisoning.

Accurate carbon monoxide statistics rely on both accurate reporting and accurate diagnosis. There is no way to know how many cases are misdiagnosed or never even go to a medical professional, there are only guesstimates from papers by Michael C. Dolan MD, Paul Heckerling and others. Some experts say that for every case accurately diagnosed, there are at least ten to a thousand time more cases. Using the data available and assuming 20% of the US population gets flu-like symptoms each year I calculate about 1.7 million cases of CO poisoning.  Others say the number may be [much] higher.

The world is packed with an almost endless number of sources of carbon monoxide. This means there are potentially a significant number of people being poisoned without knowing the cause of their health issues. These poisonings are never tracked or even estimated in carbon monoxide statistics.

In order to avoid or at least minimize the potential of carbon monoxide exposure it is advisable to install a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm or carbon monoxide (CO) detector in each sleeping area where a person might be unaware of the potential short or long term consequences of exposure to carbon monoxide.  One on every floor is required by most legislation but one on each bedroom is new. It can be found in the 2012 edition of the NFPA 720 in chapters 6 and 9.  The National Fire Protection (NFPA) Standard 720 is the installation standard for carbon monoxide (CO) alarms and detectors.  The NFPA 720 standard requires 75 decibels at the pillow, which only can be met if there is a listed carbon monoxide (CO) alarm or carbon monoxide (CO) detector located within each such bedroom.