Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - An Overview

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Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that can poison and kill a person or animal within minutes.

Where Is Carbon Monoxide Found?

Carbon monoxide is located in combustion flames and is created whenever any fuel, such as kerosene, wood, gas, oil, or charcoal is burned. It can be produced by motor vehicles, small gas engines, lanterns, stoves, heating systems, wood stoves, and coal stoves. If used in a small, enclosed space with poor ventilation, carbon monoxide can build up quickly, which can cause immediate illness or even death.

Why Carbon Monoxide is Dangerous?

Carbon monoxide is dangerous when it is breathed in. When breathed in, red blood cells pick up the CO molecules faster than they pick up oxygen molecules. If someone is breathing in an environment, such as a small, enclosed space where is a great deal of carbon monoxide in the air, the body may end up replacing oxygen in the blood with CO. This replacement of oxygen with CO can happen rapidly. People may not realize that this is happening, as the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are very similar to common illnesses, such as the flu. Occasionally, if people are sleeping, they may not even have an opportunity to realize they are being poisoned.

What are Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

Many of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic symptoms of common ailments. Common symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, chest pain, and dizziness. If an individual has breathed in a significant amount of CO, the result can be a loss of consciousness, quickly followed by death.

People who are awake while being poisoned by carbon monoxide may not realize that they are experiencing CO poisoning because the symptoms are so similar to common ailments. Likewise, if people are sleeping at the time, they may die before ever waking to experience or recognize the symptoms.

Who Is At Risk for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

CO poisoning can affect anyone. Fetuses, infants, the elderly, and people with chronic heart problems, respiratory problems, or anemia are more prone to the effects of carbon monoxide. In addition, people who work with equipment that produces CO, such as small engine tools, or in situations in which CO is unavoidable, like toll booths or firefighting, are at increased risk of CO poisoning. Hundreds of people die each year as the result of CO poisoning; thousands visit the hospital because of it. The population with the highest incidence of fatalities as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning is the 65-and-over population.

How Can I Protect Myself Against Carbon Monoxide?

There are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself against carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have fuel-burning appliances, you should get them inspected at the beginning of each heating season. Ensure that fumes from appliances are vented outside whenever possible and that they are properly installed. Make sure that you follow the instructions for any fuel burning device and that you never use devices inside that are strictly for outdoor use, like charcoal or gas grills. In addition, never let a motor vehicle idle in a garage or operate a tool with a small engine (like weed whackers, mowers, chain saws, or generators) in an enclosed space even with the door open. Also, ensure that you never sleep in a room with a kerosene space heater or unventilated gas.

If you experience any symptoms that may be related to carbon monoxide poisoning, do not ignore them. You should seek fresh air immediately and then seek medical assistance.

Is It Necessary to Seek Legal Assistance If Poisoned?

There may be instances in which carbon monoxide poisoning is the result of faulty equipment, poor ventilation in a building, or something else that may be out of your control. In these cases, you may want to seek legal assistance. There are lawyers who are very knowledgeable about carbon monoxide and can help you seek resolution in the event that you have suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning