All The Carbon Monoxide Facts You Need to Know
Having carbon monoxide facts and fiction clearly defined could save your life.
Ask the residents of the 47-story Atlantic Station apartment complex, who started the new year off with a scare; a carbon monoxide threat resulted in an evacuation of portions of the high-rise apartment complex, reported the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death if not detected soon enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report more than 400 deaths and some 20,000 emergency room visits in the U.S. annually are a result of unintentional CO poisoning.
Found in combustion fumes, such as those produced by combustion engines, stoves, lanterns, burning charcoal and wood, gas ranges and heating systems, carbon monoxide is about the same weight as the air we breath, so it is all around us. Don’t worry though, we breath in small amounts of CO every day. In fact, our bodies need a certain amount of it.
Symptoms of CO poisoning include dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion, according to the CDC. Prolonged exposure, or high doses, can cause loss of consciousness and death. Poisoning is a result of red blood cells picking up replacing oxygen in the blood with carbon monoxide, resulting in tissue damage.
If you suspect someone might be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, basic first aid should be applied:
- Move the person to an area with fresh air away from the CO source. If person is unconscious, check for injuries before moving. Turn off source of carbon monoxide if possible.
- Call 911. If the person is not breathing, begin CPR.
Once at the hospital the treatment will depend on the severity of exposure to carbon monoxide. If mild, it is treated with oxygen and monitoring of CO levels, while severe cases may require more intensive oxygen therapy.
While all this sounds pretty scary, it really shouldn’t be. Fortunately, carbon monoxide facts include that CO poisoning is easily avoided with a few precautionary measures:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector, either battery-powered or one with a battery back-up system. When choosing a battery-operated model, changing the batteries twice a year and monthly testing is a must.
- When buying gas-using equipment, make sure they have a seal from a national testing agency, such as the CSA group.
- Make sure heating systems, water heating units and other gas, oil or coal burning appliances are properly vented and have routine maintenance performed.