Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide – or the silent killer – is produced by the burning of material that contains carbon. It is a colorless and odorless gas, which makes it all the more dangerous. The CO poisoning occurs when people inhale this gas. Very often people are not aware of the fact that they are inhaling this gas, and this can sometimes lead to death.

Therefore, it is better to be aware of what can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. The carbon monoxide is produced by most household appliances and is one of the leading causes of death. Each year, you’ll articles in the newspaper about people who got killed by it. By estimate, there are about 500 cases a year.

The list of possible sources for CO poisoning can include:

  • Gas water heaters
  • House fires like furnaces and wood-burning stoves
  • Portable camping stoves
  • Generators powered by gasoline and diesel (especially used on boats)
  • Forklifts
  • Motor vehicle exhaust
  • Faults in scuba diving equipment
  • Cigarette smoke

Risks for exposure to carbon monoxide may include:

  • Allowing your children to ride in the back of an enclosed pickup truck
  • Pulp mills, steel foundries and plants where formaldehyde or coke is produced
  • The use of heating sources during a power shortage
  • Swimming under or near the stern of a boat while the engine is running
  • Indoor workspaces with combustion engines
  • Mooring next to a boat that is running a generator or engine
  • Locking the bathroom door (especially when you have a gas heater with open flame)

One golden rule is that you should properly ventilate your house or workspace. Because when you don’t do this, the carbon monoxide can build up within a certain space (for instance: the bathroom) and can cause poisoning.

Next to ventilation, you could use a carbon monoxide detector. When you buy a new appliance for your home and you have it installed, most of the technicians will do this automatically.

But people tend to get careless when they have the same appliance for a longer time. I can only advise that you should have the heater, furnace, etc. checked every year. It will cost a bit, but isn’t this better than dying by a undetected gas? Or, in the best case, having to spend a couple of days in the hospital?

Some of the early symptoms of CO poisoning are a sudden headache, or nausea, or fatigue. Lots of people underestimate the meaning of these symptoms – they just think they have a bit of flu – and this can lead to brain damage or even death.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is often followed by severe neurological problems, like difficulties with the short-term memory, irritability, speech disturbance, syndromes resembling Parkinson, blindness, depression or dementia.

A prolonged exposure to the gas can lead to coronary heart diseases. Some professions need to take care her. Vehicle examiners, firefighters and welders are more prone to get affected by the gas than people who work elsewhere.


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