Environmental Toxin Essay
Carbon is the spine on which all life is supported and is easily one of the most abundant and versatile elements in existence. Carbon is one of the most abundant elements in the human body, second only to oxygen; without it, neither humans, nor any other living thing could exist. Every living thing is dependent on carbon, so why is it that the difference of one little molecule of oxygen can be so deadly? If carbon dioxide is being expelled from our bodies twenty four hours a day, why is it that carbon monoxide can literally take us out of the rat race? Is that one little oxygen molecule really that important? You can bet your grandmother's nickers it is.
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In the 1950s, the United Kingdom used coal gas as its domestic gas supply. In its unburned form, coal gas contains very high levels of carbon monoxide and before 1960, over half of the suicides in the United Kingdom were due to intentional inhalation of coal gas (Hampson). Prior to the 1970’s, before the invention of catalytic converters, vehicles were not equipped with an exhaust system or a method to regulate the output of carbon monoxide emissions, which was around 4-10%, making vehicular suicide a popular choice. In the late 1970's the Environmental Protection Agency enforced strict regulations in the US for vehicle emissions. The invention and implementation of catalytic converters did away with 99% of the carbon monoxide emitted in vehicle exhaust and though there is still enough to be very dangerous or even fatal, the rates of vehicular suicide have dropped since the 1970’s (EPA). Today, all new vehicles come equipped with that system, but even with these regulations and all the advances in technology, modern day vehicles still produce enough carbon monoxide to be fatal in an enclosed space.
Our text, Human Form Human Function, provides a detailed explanation of how the red blood cell works while in hemostasis, or under normal conditions. Red blood cells travel through the pulmonary capillaries in the lungs and across the surface of an alveolus that has been inflated with a big breath of fresh air. The oxygen is then attached to the heme portion of hemoglobin within the red blood cell (becoming oxyhemoglobin) before it travels back to the heart where it is pumped out for its round trip tour of the body. The red blood cell then drops off the oxygen at a distal tissue cell for it to use in the production of ATP and then picks up carbon dioxide from the tissue so that it can drop it off when it gets back to the lung to be exhaled and then expelled from the body.
One of the bodies most important proteins is the hemoglobin molecule, moving oxygen and nutrients throughout the body which is a vital key for maintaining homeostasis. Due to its structural arrangement, hemoglobin is able to bind and carry four oxygen molecules per molecule of hemoglobin. This binding affinity changes when carbon dioxide is released from tissues, making hemoglobin have a higher affinity for carbon dioxide than for oxygen; meaning that if the two were side by side, the carbon dioxide would be taken (Piantadosi). This is beneficial for the sustainment of homeostasis in the human body because a buildup of carbon dioxide in the body creates an excess of carbonic acid in the presence of water. This delicate dance goes on at an astounding rate all throughout an organisms lifespan.
Carbon monoxide is known to interact with the hemoglobin molecule and though there may be a great deal of understanding regrading the effects of carbon monoxide and the human body, it is still very complex and therefor, not fully understood. Carbon monoxide has a higher diffusion...