What is It?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous, colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. CO also has no detectable odor, and CO is often mixed with other gases that has odors.
Sources of CO
Carbon monoxide is a common industrial hazard that comes from the incomplete burning of natural gas and any other material that contains carbon (e.g gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal, or wood). Forges, blast furnaces and coke ovens produce CO, but one of the most common sources is an internal combustion engine.
Some of the sources indoors is:
- Furnaces or boilers
- Gas stoves and ovens
- Fireplaces (gas and wood burning)
- Water heaters
- Clothes dyers
- Wood stoves
- Power generators
- Motor vehicles
- Power tools and lawn equipment
- Tobacco smoke
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Long term exposure to carbon monoxide can have adverse effects on someone, and some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is:
- Flu-like symptoms, fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Visual changes
- Memory problems
Carbon Monoxide Case Study
This case study was an overview of many other case studies involving carbon monoxide.
- Exposures in long term case studies are often have unknown levels and duration. Patients are sometimes exposed in short periods, but with acute intoxication. There is a difficulty with determining what type of exposure is responsible for the health problems that come after.
- Severe poisoning can lead to unconsciousness, and it can also lead to neurological damage that may be long-lasting.
- Short term exposure of high concentrations of carbon monoxide can lead to changes in how your brain is functioning.
- Non-smokers have about 0.5% of carbon monoxide in their blood, but smokers can have up to 13% of carbon monoxide in their blood.
- In 1820, researchers found that 22.5% of the sampled children had levels of 3% of carbon monoxide in their blood. The highest level they found was 8%. Out of all the homes that the researchers tested, 17% of the sampled homes had levels above 10 ppm. The levels of CO were mainly caused by defective or improperly vented fuel burning appliances.
- Poorly ventilated rooms could produce CO levels of 46-98 ppm.
- There is more evidence coming out that is stating that exposure to low concentrations of carbon monoxide can affect a number of organ systems.
How to Treat Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If you have been poisoned by carbon monoxide, get out into fresh air immediately, and call for emergency help (a.k.a 911). Once you're at the hospitals, the treatments they may give you may be:
- Breathing pure oxygen: In the emergency room, you may breathe pure oxygen through a mask over your nose and mouth. This will help the oxygen reach your organs and tissues, and if you cannot breathe on your own, a machine (ventilator) may do the breathing for you.
- Spending time in a pressurized oxygen chamber: This is also known as, "hyperbaric oxygen therapy." The therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a chamber where the air pressure is about two to three times higher than normal. This will speed up the process of replacing the carbon monoxide with oxygen in your blood.
How to Reduce Carbon Monoxide
- Have proper design, installation, and maintenance of gas appliances
- Vent combustion products outside
- Install warning devices (carbon monoxide detectors)
States where CO alarms are required
Statistics of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Deaths
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