Breathing out poison

Published: Wednesday 15 March 1995

American biomedical researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, have devised a simple instrument to accurately measure carbon monoxide (co) in a person's lungs (Environment Science Technology, Vol 29, No 1).

The device, invented by the Harvard scientists Kiyoung Lee and Yukio Yanagisawa, consists of a mouthpiece, an air trap system and an adsorbent tube.

A subject is asked to inhale room air deeply, hold it for 20 seconds and blow into the mouthpiece. The system traps only the last part ofthe exhalation, which is the air emanating from deep within the lungs and indicates the co level for the body. The sample is then passed on to the adsorber where co is collected by a zeolite-based material and analysed for co levels.

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