Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Name:  Ron
Status:  other
Age:  40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2000-2001

I had carbon monoxide poisoning and was hospitalized for it. Is there any effects that can linger in the blood after you get over the effects, and are released from the hospital. Are there systems or effects that can attract my body later on in life. I got the poison at my work place, was down in a ship loading cargo and got the poising there. Would appreciate any information you can provide me with.

Oxygen delivery in your body is carried out by red blood cells. They are full of a protein called hemoglobin that holds onto oxygen molecules to carry them through your body to all your cells.

Carbon monoxide happens to have a very similar chemical structure to oxygen molecules. Hemoglobin can't tell the difference, and it's perfectly happy to carry that around instead of oxygen and actually holds onto the carbon monoxide a little more tightly. That means that your cells (particularly your brain) is not getting the oxygen it needs and a person effectively suffocates under carbon monoxide poisoning. It can cause permanent brain damage and death.

The treatment you received in the hospital was to give you lots of oxygen at high pressures (at least higher than the normal atmospheric content of oxygen). So when your hemoglobin did let go of the carbon monoxide, it was likely to see more oxygen and pick that up instead. Once you've gotten rid of the carbon monoxide in your system, there should be no long term effects, as long as there was no brain damage from the poisoning in the first place. But I would certainly avoid situations where you're likely to be poisoned again -- you might not be so lucky the second time.

Christine Ticknor
Ph.D. Candidate
Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut

Click here to return to the Zoology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory