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Frequently Asked: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

By WenSue |

CO poisoning occurs when Carbon Monoxide gas accumulates in your bloodstream to replace oxygen in the red blood cells. This scenario leads to tissue damage and even uncertain death. It occurs when there is accumulation of Carbon Monoxide gas in areas where carbon fuels are burning with poor ventilation which causes incomplete combustion.

There are various reasons and causes of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. The major reason is poor ventilation; some causes include cigarette smoking, use of old and sub serviced appliances among other causes we shall discuss below.

1. What is Carbon Monoxide?

In simple terms, Carbon monoxide gas can be defined as a colourless, odorless and tasteless gas that is found in fumes of burning carbon fuels. Examples are coal, wood and gasoline. Carbon monoxide can cause fatal illness in human beings when inhaled.

2. The Sources of CO Gas

Carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by incomplete combustion of fuels and accumulation of CO gas in an area. Below are some common causes of CO poisoning.

  • Leaving a car engine running in enclosed spaces can lead to the build-up of CO gas in a few minutes.
  • Cigarette smoking raises the levels of CO in the smoker’s blood.
  • Fumes from solvents like paint removers and some cleaning detergents may lead to Carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Burning charcoal in poorly ventilated areas is another major cause.
  • Blocked chimneys, as well as flues, lead to accumulation of CO which causes poisoning.
  • Old and sub serviced appliances are likely to emit high levels of CO which leads to poisoning.

3. The Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

CO poisoning symptoms include immediate, mild and severe symptoms. In just minutes of exposure, the victim will feel flu-like symptoms without fever.  Continued exposure leads to severe symptoms which include unconsciousness, balance loss, vision and memory problems.  For mild cases of CO poisoning, there are chances of the victims to fully recover.  For severe cases, symptoms like confusion, memory issues and poor coordination may arise after several months.

4. How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Your Home

Carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by following some of the simple precautions we shall discuss below. prevention always better.

1. Ensure gas appliances are used according to their recommendations

Different gas appliances should be used for specific purposes. Never should ovens or gas stoves be used to heat your home. Space heaters and the fireplace should be used when your household is awake and not otherwise. Running  generators should never be placed in enclosed space like basements.

2. Installation of Carbon monoxide smoke detectors

Carbon Monoxide alarms and detectors with electrochemical sensors are available for homes, apartments, boats and even hotels. Install them in different rooms in your house including the hallways of bedrooms. Conduct routine checks by pressing the test button to confirm if they are working. In case there is an alarm evacuate as quickly as possible and inform the fire department or the police.

3. Your garage door should be opened before you start your car

If your garage is attached to the house it is advisable to be cautious all the time. Ensure you do not leave your engine running in the garage. At all times ensure your garage door is opened before you start the engine. Chances to escape in case of CO poisoning are narrow when the door is closed compared to when it is open.

4. Keep your fireplace in good condition

If you have a fireplace in your living room or rather any other place, according to your preferences ensure it is always kept in a good condition by cleaning it once a year. This will reduce the chances of Carbon Monoxide poisoning occurring. Proper air circulation is important in ensuring your fireplace works efficiently without posing any other risks.

5. During remodeling chimneys and vents should be kept clear

  Remodeling comes with a lot of changes, while you endeavor to make the desired changes to break the monotony of what you have been used to, be cautious to ensure your chimneys and vents are not blocked by the debris and tarps associated with the remodeling procedures.

6. Your engines and fuel-combustion appliances should be well vented

All the fuel combustion appliances including but not limited to furnaces, charcoal grills, portable generators, car engines water and space heaters should be checked regularly by your utility providers or companies. Yearly checkups are recommended for the different appliances.

7. Be cautious while working with solvents in closed areas

Solvents like Methylene chloride is commonly associated with varnish removers or paint. It can metabolize to form the poisonous CO gas. It is recommended to work with them outdoor. If they have to be used indoors ensure the room is well ventilated. Reading the precautions and instructions for use should not be overlooked for such products. 

8. Fix sites that have been associated with poisoning before

In case CO poisoning occurs in any of the rooms in your house ensure the cause and any underlying condition that may have caused its occurrence is addressed fully before you embark on any other activity in the room. Your utility provider and the fire department can help you with the same.

In conclusion, CO poisoning is a deadly disease and different precautionary measures can be undertaken to prevent it from occurring. In case of occurrence, the source and underlying reasons should be addressed exhaustively to avoid another occurrence.

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