July 1986

Chronic Carbon Monoxide Poisoning as a Major Contributing Factor in the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

Author Affiliations

Mecklenburg Center for Human Development 3500 Ellington St Charlotte, NC 28211
Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine The School of Medicine The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 635 Clinical Sciences Bldg, 229 H Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Am J Dis Child. 1986;140(7):619. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1986.02140210017010

Sir.—Many causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have been proposed but no one cause or combination of causes has been established.1 A current hypothesis is that SIDS may be the result of a breakdown in the integration of the complex regulatory systems to maintain life.2 One stress factor that has not been investigated adequately is exposure to carbon monoxide and its subsequent effects on respiratory control in infants. Carbon monoxide is one of the by-products of the incomplete combustion of organic materials that most commonly originates from cigarette smoke, inadequately vented heating systems, and automobile exhaust. Carbon monoxide binds with hemoglobin with an affinity 250 times greater than that of oxygen.3 Some of the pathologic abnormalities of SIDS and carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to and consistent with chronic hypoxia.3,4

A high association of mothers who smoke cigarettes during pregnancy and after delivery has

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