High-risk groups: who’s most at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning?

High-risk groups: who’s most at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning? Carbon monoxide (also known by its chemical formula "CO") is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and non-irritating gas produced by burning fuels. When a person inhales it, CO binds to the hemoglobin in the blood and rapidly cuts off the body's oxygen supply. Acute poisoning can kill a person in minutes. Toxicologists consider CO one of the most dangerous poisons, dubbing it the "silent killer" for its elusive properties. Unfortunately, this toxic gas is quite common since our society burns so many organic fuels like oil, charcoal, and propane. Anyone who contacts significant CO concentrations is at risk. However, some people are even more susceptible to the toxin due to health conditions or other factors.

High-risk Groups

  • Unborn babies take CO into their systems easily and need longer to excrete it, letting the toxin do more damage.
  • Pregnant women are high-risk because of links between CO poisoning and miscarriage and fetal development issues.
  • Children breathe at a higher rate and inhale more ambient CO.
  • Anemic individuals with fewer red blood cells are more susceptible since their lower hemoglobin count metabolizes into carboxyhemoglobin faster.
  • Elderly individuals are more sensitive to oxygen deprivation and may have complicating conditions like heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that further inhibit oxygen delivery.
  • Smokers, especially heavy smokers, already have elevated carboxyhemoglobin levels, so additional CO intake can induce CO poisoning even sooner.

Preventing CO Poisoning

Since poisoning prevention is always better than treatment, high-risk individuals should take extra care to minimize their chances of CO exposure. Fortunately, there are number of ways to do this. Keep functional carbon monoxide detectors in your home and test unit batteries biannually. Know the dangers of improperly using fuel-burning equipment (generators, space heaters, propane lanterns, charcoal grills) indoors and in enclosed spaces. Maintain all gas-burning household appliances and fireplaces. A qualified technician should install them correctly and check them annually. Get vehicles inspected annually, including recreational watercraft and aircraft. Malfunctioning exhaust and heating systems are notorious for causing CO poisonings. Know your chances of CO exposure in various high-risk occupations such as commercial driving, pipelining, oilfield work, and welding. Lastly, know the symptoms of CO poisoning and what sets it apart from other illnesses so you can recognize danger. If you experience symptoms, toxic levels of CO might already be present! If you get CO poisoning, get to fresh air, get medical attention, then get legal representation. Call Wyatt Law Firm at 210-340-5550 for a free case review if you or a loved one has been affected: you could be eligible for compensation. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you don't pay us for our services unless we win your settlement. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain by calling or submitting a confidential contact form. We won't let negligent parties ignore you. We make people heard, and we've been doing it successfully for over 25 years. Let us tell your story. Let us fight for you. For more information on CO poisoning prevention, danger recognition, medical attention, and legal representation, explore our legal blog and our CO webpages.


Flachsbart, P. G. (2008). Exposure to Ambient and Microenvironmental Concentrations of Carbon Monoxide. In D. G. Penney (Ed.), Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (pp. 5-41). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). (2018, May 17). Carbon monoxide poisoning. Retrieved July 2, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/carbon-monoxide/symptoms-causes/syc-20370642 OSHA. (2012, April). Carbon Monoxide Poisoning [PDF]. OSHA Fact Sheet. Retrieved July 2, 2019, from https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/carbonmonoxide-factsheet.pdf Sparrow. (2017, July 03). Who is Most at Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning? | SPARROW. Retrieved July 2, 2019, from https://www.sparrowsense.com/risk-carbon-monoxide-poisoning/ Tracking California. (n.d.). Who is Vulnerable to Carbon Monoxide Poisoning? Retrieved July 2, 2019, from https://www.trackingcalifornia.org/carbon-monoxide/who-is-vulnerable-to-carbon-monoxide


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