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Nonfatal, unintentional, non—fire-related carbon monoxide exposures—United States, 2004-2006

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MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2008 August 22, 57 (33): 896-9
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, nonirritating gas that is produced through the incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons. Sources of CO include combustion devices (e.g., boilers and furnaces), motor-vehicle exhaust, generators and other gasoline or diesel-powered engines, gas space heaters, woodstoves, gas stoves, fireplaces, tobacco smoke, and various occupational sources. CO poisoning is a leading cause of unintentional poisoning deaths in the United States; it was responsible for approximately 450 deaths each year during 1999-2004 and an estimated 15,200 emergency department (ED) visits each year during 2001-2003. Health effects of CO exposure can range from viral-like symptoms (e.g., fatigue, dizziness, headache, confusion, and nausea) to more severe conditions (e.g., disorientation, unconsciousness, long-term neurologic disabilities, coma, cardiorespiratory failure, and death). CO poisoning often is misdiagnosed and underdetected because of the nonspecific nature of symptoms. To update a previously published report and provide national estimates of CO-related ED visits during 2004-2006, CDC analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System--All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP) database. During 2004-2006, an estimated average of 20,636 ED visits for nonfatal, unintentional, non-fire-related CO exposures occurred each year. Approximately 73% of these exposures occurred in homes, and 41% occurred during winter months (December-February). Prevention efforts targeting residential and seasonal CO exposures can substantially reduce CO-related morbidity.

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