Everyone is at risk for carbon monoxide, and certain factors make individuals more vulnerable to its effects. These factors include: smoking, chronic heart disease, anemia (a reduced number of healthy red blood cells), and respiratory problems such as asthma.
Individuals belonging to the following groups may be at an increased risk for CO poisoning:
- Fetuses and infants: Due to their small size, this group is more likely to have developmental disorders as a result of CO poisoning
- Adults age 65 and older: This group is more likely to have a respiratory or heart condition that may predispose them to more severe CO poisoning
- CO poisoning is especially harmful to people who may be sleeping or are under the influence of alcohol. People in these situations may inhale toxic amounts of CO without recognizing the symptoms of CO poisoning.
Racial/ethnic disparities in hospitalizations due to CO poisoning
Limited research suggests that Hispanic and Black populations may be at greater risk for CO poisoning than White populations. A study conducted in Washington state revealed that Hispanic and Black populations experienced more unintentional CO poisoning-related morbidity than White populations. Similarly, a study conducted in California found that males and Black populations experienced the highest unintentional deaths due to CO poisoning.
Carbon Monoxide Deaths
CO poisoning kills over 500 people every year. It is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the United States. Fatality rates are highest in people age 65 and over. This group is more likely to have a respiratory or heart condition that may predispose them to more severe CO poisoning. A study conducted on the causes of unintentional deaths from CO poisoning in California found that alcohol played a factor in many of these deaths. Other factors included one or more of the following: heating or cooking appliances, charcoal grills, small engines, or camping equipment.