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Health Indicator Report of Carbon Monoxide Exposure Calls

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous colorless, odorless, non-irritating gas; therefore you cannot see, smell, or taste it. The most common sources of exposure to CO include fuel burning appliances such as heaters, stoves, clothes dryers, and water heaters. Other sources include: fireplaces, wood burning stoves, motor vehicles, lawn mowers, recreational water crafts and boats, propane natural gas or charcoal burning stoves, barbecue grills, kerosene space heaters, generators, power tools with internal combustion engines, and breathing in cigarette smoke either by smokers or second hand smoke. This toxic gas is released whenever fuel such as gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal, or wood are burned. CO exposure can cause sudden death or illness when the gas builds up into high concentrations in enclosed or semi-enclosed spaces and poison the people and animals in them. High levels of exposure to CO can be life-threatening. CO produces toxicity by binding tightly to blood hemoglobin to form carboxyhemoglobin and therefore, preventing oxygen transport to tissues throughout the body. Essentially, CO displaces oxygen in the blood. It also binds to myoglobin in muscles, which results in exercise intolerance, and this is a common early symptom of CO toxicity. The health effects, signs and symptoms, of CO toxicity are characteristic of hypoxia (a lack of oxygen) and may vary depending on the magnitude and duration of exposure and individual vulnerabilities. The brain and heart are the most sensitive organs to hypoxia and account for most health effects resulting from CO exposure. Although there is no unique list of signs and symptoms of CO poisoning, the most common or typical signs and symptoms of poisoning include headache, dilation of skin blood vessels, weakness/fatigue, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, confusion, shortness of breath, chest pain, and loss of consciousness.

Unintentional CO Exposures Reported to Poison Control Centers, Age-adjusted Rate per 100,000 Population by County, New Mexico, [Year Period] 2008-2018


Data queries for count and crude rate include an "unknown" variable category created for data records with missing, incomplete or imprecise variable values or information. On average, the dataset for 2008-2016 contains about 8% of records with unknown ages , 6% of records with unknown caller locational information (e.g., county), 6% of records with unknown exposure site information, 1% of records with the patient unknown sex, and 0.4% of records with unknown medical outcome.

Data Sources

  • National Poison Data System, American Association of Poison Control Centers
  • Population Estimates: University of New Mexico, Geospatial and Population Studies (GPS) Program,

Data Interpretation Issues

Exposure outcome: Exposure outcome is the determination made by the New Mexico Drug and Poison Information Center or Poison Control Center (PCC) Specialist based on information available at the case conclusion. If it is not possible to follow a patient to outcome, "Case not followed to known outcome" is selected. The Specialist also determines exposure was probably not responsible for the effect(s). If initial call is long after exposure and a patient had related clinical effects, a definitive outcome which best describes the known "medical" outcome is selected; No effect: Patient developed no symptoms. Follow-up is required to make determination, unless the initial call occurs soon after exposure. Minor effect: Patient exhibited minimally bothersome symptoms, i.e. drowsiness, skin, or mucous membrane manifestations. The symptoms usually resolve rapidly and the patient returned to a state of well-being. Follow-up is required unless the call occurs long after exposure and clinical effects do not worsen. Unless the residual symptoms are long-term and of minimal clinical significance, patients are followed until symptoms resolve. Moderate effect: Patient exhibited pronounced symptoms, i.e. disorientation, prolonged or more systemic than minor symptoms. Treatment is indicated. Follow-up is required unless the initial call occurs long after exposure that clinical effects did not worsen. Unless the residual symptoms are long-term and of minimal clinical significance, patients are followed until resolved. Major effect: Patient exhibited life-threatening or resulted in significant disability or disfigurement symptoms, i.e. coma, cardiac or respiratory arrest. Follow-up is required unless the call occurs long after exposure and clinical effect(s) did not worsen. Unless the residual symptoms are long-term or permanent, patients are followed until symptoms have resolved or nearly resolved. Death/expired: Patient dies as a result or as a complication of exposure.


High levels of exposure to CO can be life-threatening. Measures are: 1) Annual number of CO exposure calls; 2) Annual crude CO exposure calls per 100,000 population; and 3) Annual age-adjusted CO exposure calls rate. Rates are per 100,000 population. Age-adjusted rates are calculated by the direct method to the Year 2000 US Standard population,, Age Standardization of Death Rates: Implementation of the Year 2000 Standard by Robert N. Anderson, Ph.D., and Harry M. Rosenberg, Ph.D., National Vital Statistics Reports From the CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, Volume 47, Number 3.


The number of unintentional or unknown intent CO exposure calls in New Mexico to Poison Control Center.


New Mexico Population in a given year, by county, age and gender.

Page Content Updated On 02/01/2019, Published on 02/01/2019
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Content updated: Fri, 1 Feb 2019 15:05:46 MST