Get fuel powered appliances like gas heaters and gas stoves are checked by professionals annually. Avoid barbecuing or using a generator indoors. Do not leave the car running in a closed space. Install a good ventilation system in your kitchen. Use a face mask when using toxic liquids like paint or cleaning liquids and set up a Carbon Monoxide alarm at home.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic gas which is a by-product of automobiles, machines and other appliances which use petrol, gas, wood, oil, kerosene or propane. CO is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas.
CO is a harmful gas because it interferes with the blood’s ability to transport oxygen. It is especially dangerous for children because they tend to breathe rapidly and therefore, inhale more CO, per kg body weight.
How Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Caused?
Carbon Monoxide is produced when fuels like oil, petrol, natural gas, wood and coal do not burn fully. Running automobiles, cigarette smoke and burning charcoal produce CO gas. The main cause of exposure by accident is mostly due to household appliances (heating or cooking devices) which have not been properly maintained, damaged or installed incorrectly.
CO in a closed space is especially dangerous and leads to rapid asphyxiation.
Symptoms Of Carbon Monoxide Toxicity
The symptoms present as less-severe if the individual is far away from the CO source. Some common symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dull stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing difficulties
The closer s/he is to the source, the symptoms present as more severe. Exposure for longer hours eventually results in loss of consciousness. Some of the more severe symptoms with exposure to high levels of CO include:
- Loss of balance (ataxia)
- Confusion and disorientation
- Visual disturbances or loss of vision
- Vertigo (severe giddiness)
- Increased heart beat (of more than 100 per minute)
- Sudden chest pain and tightness
Long-term exposure to high levels of CO can cause permanent neurological damage especially with the elderly and children. Other at-risk groups include those with compromised breathing, chronic illnesses and pregnant women.1
How To Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
A few simple safety measures can prevent accidental exposure to CO in our homes.
- Make sure all your fuel-powered appliances like gas water-heaters and gas stoves are checked and maintained by professionals annually. Never use gas stoves or ovens to heat the room.
- Do not use barbecue grills indoors or in closed spaces like garages, where there is no proper ventilation.
- Do not use a generator in a closed space with no air.
- Do not leave the car engine running in a closed garage.
- Use a charcoal stove only in a well-ventilated, airy space.
- Make sure to install an exhaust fan in your kitchen.
- Use a face mask when working with paint and other cleaning liquids, which contain methylene chloride (check the label!).
- Get a CO alarm especially if you have young children, elderly people and people with chronic illnesses at home.2
What If Someone You Know Has CO Toxicity Symptoms?
If someone shows symptoms of CO poisoning, do not attempt to do anything, but get medical help immediately. S/he must be taken to a hospital emergency and immediately be given oxygen therapy (standard 100% oxygen).
The doctors may run a blood test to confirm the amount of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood. A level of 30% or more indicates severe exposure. The standard oxygen therapy will be given until the carboxyhemoglobin levels return to less than 10%.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Carbon Monoxide, United States Product Safety Commission|
|2.||↑||Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention|