Determinant factors for personal carbon monoxide (CO) exposures were sought in Korea, where CO poisoning has been a major public health problem due to coal briquette (Yeontan) combustion for space heating and cooking. Personal 24-hr CO exposures of 15 housewives were measured by CO passive samplers on 2 days of the week (Wednesday and Sunday). Blood samples were taken to measure carboxyhemoglobin (COHb) just after the exposure sampling. Average CO exposure and COHb level were 5.6 ppm and 2.4%, respectively. Personal CO exposures as well as COHb levels were significantly increased by the use of Yeontan, especially on a weekday. Carboxyhemoglobin levels were closely related to the time between blood collection and replacement of Yeontan: the closer the blood collection was to replace Yeontan, the higher the COHb levels were. Assuming a background COHb of 1.34%, COHb increased on average by 1.8% with a 24-hr personal CO exposure of 10 ppm. The relationship between CO exposure and COHb level was provided by simultaneous direct measurements in real environment, although a measurement of COHb at the end of exposure could not represent previous 24-hr exposure thoroughly.
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