A wedding reception was evacuated in Madison, WI due to high levels of carbon monoxide. More than two dozen were taken to the hospital, including one who fainted during the reception. The source of the gas was a generator being used to provide power to the band.
Hypoxia is defined as a condition in which the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply at the tissue level. The primary hypoxic action of carbon monoxide is found in its high affinity and strong bind to hemoglobin, which creates carboxyhemoglobin, and affects the transport of oxygen to tissues, according to Milan J. Hazucha in the book Carbon Monoxide Toxicity.
When CO binds to intracellular myoglobin of skeletal and cardiac muscle, it reduces the transport of oxygen to mitochondria, considered the power generators of the cell, and subsequently impairs their respiratory function, which leads to muscle dysfunction.
The heart is a muscle, so this results in heart dysfunction. It causes causes myocardial depression, low blood pressure, and arrhythmias. The sudden worsening of cardiac symptoms associated with heart failure causes further tissue hypoxia. This is ultimately the cause of death in carbon monoxide poisoning.
Luckily, the emergency personnel were called before there were fatal consequences. The levels peaked at 405 parts per million in the center of the building. Just a little higher than this, the CO levels could have been fatal. Although there were no fatalities, one person did faint. Carbon monoxide poisoning where the person survives could cause brain damage.
The brain consumes about 20 percent of the body’s oxygen supply. There is an order to the parts of the brain that suffer brain damage from carbon monoxide poisoning. The hippocampus, the basal ganglia, and the cerebellum are the most susceptible parts of the brain to damage.
The hippocampus, which transfers information from short term to long term memory, is the most susceptible because it is located in the middle of the temporal lobe, at the end of the blood’s circulation route. The blood carries oxygen to the brain, so the levels of oxygen are lower in the brain at this time.
In addition, when oxygen levels are low, the brain releases higher than normal levels of glutamate which are toxic to the brain.
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