The vulnerability of the poor: prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide increases the risk of losing cognitive skills and abilities

Indoor Air Cartoon Journal, April 2019, Volume 2, #55

Prolong exposure to carbon monoxide is a significant hazard that increases the risk of children losing their cognitive skills and abilities. This risk applies to adults and foetus also. The developing immune system of children increases their vulnerability. Their vulnerability also increases by being or living in a place where the hazard is present. Children living in developing countries where regular and prolonged disruption of electricity has been a norm are examples of being vulnerable as a result of place of living. To study or perform daily activities after sunset, children have no choice than to use a kerosene lamp or lantern. For visibility of texts or effective performance of operations, the nose has to be in very close proximity to the light, thereby increasing inhalation of emitted carbon monoxide. The reduced ventilation air exchange and air movement, as a result of no electricity, further increase the age of air and CO concentration in the space.

This exposure usually continues during sleep and most times until daybreak the next day. It is not uncommon for this exposure to continue for several days, weeks or months. CO exposure also occurs for those that could afford petrol or diesel based electricity generator. Imagine a building with several occupants using their own CO emitting generators. The high concentration of CO around the peripheral of the building infiltrates into the indoor environment of these occupants, thereby increasing their exposure.

In this kind of situation, prolonged disruption of electricity from the electricity provider further increases the indoor CO concentration (hazard), exposure (vulnerability), and the risk of losing cognitive skills and abilities. The current situation of frequent or prolonged disruption of electricity continues, and the consequences of the situation will continue to increase if the problem is not well defined. By problem definition, I meant quantifying the extent of the decline in cognitive skills and abilities caused by the duration or frequency of disruption of electricity supply in this part of the world. Further research efforts should understand not just the cause, but the root cause to the extent of the defined problem. It is only then that a sustainable solution or continuous improvement system can be put in place to reduce the hazard, vulnerability, and risk.

55. Carbon Monoxide_55

Do you want to know more about this topic? Read Hopkins and Woon (2006), Levy (2015), and Townsend and Maynard (2002) papers.

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