Lifestyle & Belief

Carbon monoxide disrupts heart rhythm, new study shows


A traffic jam on the A7 highway between Vienne and Valence, eastern France, during holiday departures on August 4, 2012.


Philippe Desmazes

Low levels of carbon monoxide—such as the amount found in traffic jams—can disrupt heart rhythm and prove fatal, according to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the BBC reported

Prior studies, such as this one, have linked "short term" monoxide poisoning with cardiovascular related hospitalizations:

"We found evidence of an association between short-term exposure to ambient CO and risk of CVD hospitalizations, even at levels well below current US health-based regulatory standards. This evidence indicates that exposure to current CO levels may still pose a public health threat, particularly for persons with CVD."

But here's some good news.

France researchers, working with the first study's authors, tested angina medication on rats. Results showed the effects of carbon monoxide exposure could be reversed.   

Professor Chris Peers of Leeds University told the BBC: 

"It was very exciting for us. When we monitored rats exposed to levels of carbon monoxide similar to heavy pollution, they had the same heart problems and we could reverse them. Carbon monoxide poisoning is tragically common but hopefully these promising results can be replicated in people so that it saves lives in the future."