Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning
We hear on a regular basis about people dying from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Carbon monoxide has killed entire families while they slept. In the United States about 300 people die each year from unintentional CO poisoning. Another 5,000 are injured.
CO is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is a byproduct of combustion. The more inefficient the combustion, the higher the amount of CO produced. When it enters the lungs, CO attaches itself to the hemoglobin in the red blood cells. Once stuck to the hemoglobin, it won’t let go and it prevents oxygen from attaching to the hemoglobin. When people inhale high enough concentrations of CO, they can die. Once your blood has CO in it, it will take many hours to rid itself of the CO, even if you’re out of the poisoned atmosphere.
Some things that can produce CO are:
|Furnaces||Gas Water Heaters||Fireplaces and Wood Stoves|
|Automobiles||Charcoal Grills||Any Gas Powered Engine|
Signs and Symptoms of CO Poisoning
CO is measured in parts per million (PPM). A one percent concentration of CO in the air equals 10,000 PPM - you don’t need to inhale much to be poisoned.
|PPM of CO||TIME||SYMPTOMS|
|50 PPM||8 hours||Maximum exposure allowed by Occupational Health and Safety for an 8-hour day.|
|200 PPM||2 - 3 hours||Mild headache, fatigue, nausea and dizziness.|
|400 PPM||1 - 2 hours||Severe headache, the other symptoms worsen. Life threatening after 3 hours.|
|800 PPM||40 minutes||Dizziness, nausea, convulsions, death in 2 to 3 hours.|
|1600 PPM||20 minutes||Headache, dizziness, convulsions. Death within 1 hour.|
|6400 PPM||1 - 2 minutes||Headache, dizziness and nausea. Death within 25-30 minutes.|
|12800 PPM||1 - 3 minutes||Death|
Remember: if you have any of these symptoms and feel better when you leave your home, but the symptoms reappear when you re-enter your home, you may be experiencing CO poisoning. Note also that many hours of exposure to low levels of CO could be just as deadly as shorter exposures to high levels. Prevention
After you have made sure that all of your fuel burning appliances are in good working order, you may still want a CO detector. A properly functioning CO detector could alert you to the presence of CO in your home. In the past few years, technology has advanced so that we can buy CO detectors at a reasonable cost.
CO detectors are powered either by a home’s electrical current or by batteries. The detectors indicate that there is CO in your home. All detectors should have the UL label in the United States, or the CSA or ULC label in Canada.
CO spreads throughout a home quickly. Detectors should be installed in sleeping areas but outside the bedrooms. It would be a good idea to place one near any major gas-burning appliance. Detectors can be placed on the wall or on the ceiling. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for installation and maintenance. What to do if the alarm goes off
When the alarm goes off, wake everybody up and ask if they are feeling OK. If anyone is complaining of any symptoms of CO poisoning, leave the house immediately.
It is important to become familiar with your CO detector alarms. The alarms may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, the alarms on one model of detector may mean that you should leave the home immediately. Another detector may have two alarms: a lower alarm means a warning while a high alarm means to leave the area now.
If a low alarm sounds, vent the house by opening the windows and doors, and shut off any fuel burning appliances. If the alarm won’t reset, have a professional technician check your heating system and appliances. Many gas utility companies will do this for you.
Some fire departments recommend that you leave the house immediately if the alarm sounds. Check with your local fire department for advice.
This information was taken from the book “I Won’t be in to Work Today - Preventing Injuries at Home, Work and Play by Martin Lesperance. To order this book or to find out more information, go to www.safete.com and click on books and products. Sign up for his free on line safety newsletter at www.safete.com. Martin speaks across North America on the topic of injury prevention.
This information was taken from the book, “I Won’t be in to Work Today - Preventing Injuries at Home, Work and Play” by Martin Lesperance. To order this book or to find out more information, go to www.safete.com and click on books and products. Sign up for his free safety newsletter at www.safete.com. Martin speaks across North America on the topic of injury prevention.
Copyright 1997 SafetyHealth Publishing Inc.
Martin Lesperance is a fire fighter/paramedic and is the author of the best selling book "I Won’t be in to Work Today – Preventing Injuries at Home, Work and Play" Martin delivers keynote presentations dealing with injury prevention. His talks are funny, but still have a strong underlying message. Visit his website at www.safete.com