CONTACT: TOM MOORE
Joint Office for Planning, Marketing and Communications
8788 John Pappajohn Pavilion
Iowa City IA 52242
Release: Oct. 17, 2002
UI health specialist warns of carbon monoxide dangers
Eric Greensmith, M.D., knows that this a dangerous time of the year in Iowa.
Whenever the first hint of winter's chill is in the air, the hazards of carbon
monoxide exposure increase significantly.
Carbon monoxide cases are the most common form of accidental poisoning in
the United States, accounting for approximately 40,000 emergency department
visits and about 800 deaths each year. Carbon monoxide injuries and deaths
occur when levels of the tasteless, odorless and colorless gas build up in
poorly ventilated spaces where a carbon-based fuel is burned.
Greensmith, an associate professor in the University of Iowa Department
of Anesthesia, says carbon monoxide poisoning cases often peak around October
when Iowans begin to heat their homes.
"Having your furnace checked by a professional is a key step in preventing
carbon monoxide poisoning," Greensmith said. "We also need to keep
educating the public about the safe operation of all appliances, heaters,
fireplaces and internal-combustion engines, which are all potential sources
of carbon monoxide."
The use of carbon monoxide detectors and alarms is also essential in protecting
the public from carbon monoxide poisoning. The devices measure the level of
carbon monoxide in the home or workplace and alerts the occupants if the levels
begin to approach harmful levels.
When carbon monoxide poisoning does occur, the symptoms are often vague,
but can include headache, dizziness and confusion. Carbon monoxide binds to
hemoglobin in the blood and interferes with the delivery of oxygen to the
tissues. Specialists have recently begun using a treatment called hyperbaric-oxygen
therapy to treat patients acutely affected by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Greensmith serves as director of Hyperbaric Medicine at UI Hospitals and
"Hyperbaric-oxygen therapy is very effective at literally flushing carbon
monoxide from the body," he said. "Not only does the technique help
more patients survive, but it also reduces the potential long-term effects
of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as possible loss of intellect or memory."
Hyperbaric-oxygen therapy involves placing patients in a special chamber
and having them breathe pure oxygen under high pressure. This procedure helps
force the oxygen into the tissues of the body. The technique is also used
to promote wound healing and to treat a condition commonly referred to as
"the bends," which can affect deep-sea divers. UI Hospitals and
Clinics houses the state's largest hyperbaric medicine chamber and can treat
multiple patients simultaneously.
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between
the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and
UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research
programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at www.uihealthcare.com.