What is Carbon Monoxide and Why is it Dangerous

Carbon monoxide is an insidious killer that escapes detection by any of the human senses. It is this ability to remain tasteless, odourless and without visual substance that makes this highly poisonous gas so very dangerous and often lethal.

What Causes Carbon Monoxide Emissions

In badly ventilated rooms, oxygen is quickly depleted by a burning fire and replaced by carbon dioxide. Fire requires oxygen for sustenance and in the absence of this the fuel will fail to burn fully, and carbon monoxide will be released. Household appliances such as cookers and central heating boilers that have not been installed with the correct amount of ventilation required are among the most common culprits of carbon monoxide poisoning.

It is probably because carbon monoxide inhalation results in tiredness and confusion that almost 50 people die annually in the UK from this type of toxic exposure. Where carbon monoxide is being produced in an enclosed space the worst thing possible would be to succumb to the normal effect of a warm fire on a cold day and to fall asleep. Users of fuels such as gas, oil, wood or coal should pay attention to symptoms that may suddenly be experienced when these fuels are being burned.

Warning Signs

If all members of a family suffer from headaches and fatigue, or show similar symptoms of illness, then carbon monoxide poisoning could be the cause. The likelihood increases if symptoms disappear when a family spends time away from the home, or they become more intense during winter months when heating is required more frequently. Soot deposits on walls or the front covers of appliances can also be a tell-tale sign of the inefficient burning of fuel.

Symptoms of Poisoning

Besides the urge to go to sleep, victims of carbon monoxide poisoning may also experience dizziness and nausea followed by vomiting. Shortness of breath and a difficulty in breathing signals danger. Stomach pains may also occur and if any or all of the abovementioned symptoms are present, the first thing to do would be to open all windows and doors and cease using any appliances that use fuel other than electricity. The appropriate health officials should be notified immediately and all persons that have been exposed to the carbon monoxide should see a doctor to determine the extent of the poisoning.


Dangers of the Deadly Gas

When carbon monoxide has been breathed in it enters the bloodstream and the body’s ability to circulate oxygenated blood is severely compromised. Without oxygen, cells begin to die and in lengthy periods of exposure the effect, particularly on the brain, can be devastating. Treatment would involve a tight-fitting mask through which 100% concentrated oxygen is fed to a patient. Unless severe damage has already occurred, this should quickly replenish the carboxyhaemoglobin, or oxygenated blood, that will allow the body to restore itself.


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