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Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

      Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, nonirritating gas and an old enemy to human health. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a rare illness, which is sometimes hard to differentiate and diagnose. Emergency nurses need to be aware of this illness and how to diagnose and treat it, as it is one of the most infamous poisons that silently takes many lives. Carbon monoxide was the leading cause of poisoning death in the United States from 1979 to 1988 according to a death certificate review (>5,000 deaths per year).
      • Cobb N
      • Etzel R
      Unintentional carbon monoxide-related deaths in the United States, 1979 through 1988.
      According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the 2005 National Health Care Survey, there were over 500 unintentional deaths and greater than 2,000 suicides that were a direct result of carbon monoxide poisoning.
      • Kochanek K
      • Murphy S
      • Anderson R
      • Scott C
      Deaths: final data for 2002.
      Half of the unintentional (non-fire) poisonings were from automobile exhaust; however, smoke inhalation is estimated to be the greatest cause of accidental exposure.
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      Biography

      Mark Goldstein, Michigan ENA, is EMS Coordinator, Department of Emergency Medicine, William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Mich.