Connecticut – November 12, 1993
Two children where sleeping over with the Dulude family for the Veteran’s Day holiday. A malfunctioning gas furnace leaked carbon monoxide gas in the night. Gasping for breath, Mr. Dulude and his wife woke from sleep and called 911. The Dulude’s two oldest children and one child who stayed over was pronounced dead.
New York – January 9, 2012
A carbon monoxide leak at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in New York sent 39 people to area hospitals for evaluation. The cause of the leak was a water heater in the basement of Barry Hall at the academy. All 39 people could have lost their lives.
East Point , Georgia – March 28 2013
A child and his father died from carbon monoxide exposure in an East Point home. The family was trying to stay warm by bringing a generator inside the home. A two year old and a thirteen year old survived.
Sissonville, West Virginia – April 1, 2013
Three men decided to go mudding in a old Ford Bronco. The men decided to rest in the Bronco after becoming stuck in the mud. Mud completely covered the muffler, and the engine was allowed to run. A leak allowed carbon monoxide gas build up in the car and the men succumb to its affects. All three were found dead in the Bronco.
A search of the internet will revel thousands of stories like these. The sad truth is that all of these incidents could have been avoided. Proper education of the dangers and causes of carbon monoxide (CO gas) and knowledge of the signs CO gas poisoning will save your life.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas and tasteless gas. It can only be detected with the use of carbon monoxide detectors, which can save your life. CO is a toxic gas that is transferred from the lungs into the bloodstream but does not damage the lungs. The gas is able to pass through the alveolar walls into to the blood, were it preferentially binds to hemoglobin so it cannot accept oxygen, causing oxygen starvation(a). This means that CO can kill even in atmospheres with oxygen present. Your blood will absorb CO gas before it absorbs oxygen. Carbon monoxide is created when something is burned (fuel, wood, trash, charcoal, natural gas etc), and not enough oxygen is present. Equipment which is not properly maintained, can burn its fuel imperfectly and is more likely to leak CO gas.
Signs of Danger
At low concentrations, fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. At higher concentrations, impaired vision and coordination; headaches; dizziness; confusion; nausea. Can cause flu-like symptoms that clear up after leaving home. Fatal at very high concentrations. Acute effects are due to the formation of carboxyhemoglobin in the blood, which inhibits oxygen intake. At moderate concentrations, angina, impaired vision, and reduced brain function may result. At higher concentrations, CO exposure can be fatal.
If you suspect that you are experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning seek fresh air. Go and get medical help away from your home by using a neighbors phone. Inform medical staff that you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning. Have the fire department determine when it is safe to reenter the home. You will die from continued exposure.
It is most important to be sure combustion equipment is maintained and properly adjusted. Vehicular use should be carefully managed adjacent to buildings and in vocational programs. Additional ventilation can be used as a temporary measure when high levels of CO are expected for short periods of time.
Always run generators outside.
Never use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off. Place them as far away from the home as possible and away from any open windows, doors, shed or anything that can allow the gas to leak inside your home.
Never barbecue inside the home.
- Keep gas appliances properly adjusted.
- Consider purchasing a vented space heater when replacing an unvented one.
- Use proper fuel in kerosene space heaters.
- Install and use an exhaust fan vented to outdoors over gas stoves.
- Open flues when fireplaces are in use.
- Choose properly sized wood stoves that are certified to meet EPA emission standards. Make certain that doors on all wood stoves fit tightly.
- Have a trained professional inspect, clean, and tune-up central heating system (furnaces, flues, and chimneys) annually. Repair any leaks promptly.
- Do not idle the car inside garage.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission states
“Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home. Every home should have a CO alarm in the hallway near the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area. The CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the most recent UL, IAS, or CSA standard for CO alarms. Test your CO alarms frequently and replace dead batteries. A CO alarm can provide added protection, but is no substitute for proper installation, use and upkeep of appliances that are potential CO sources.”
This image below show the sources and clues to a carbon monoxide problem.
(a) Plog, Barbara A., and Patricia J. Quinlan. Fundamentals of Industrial Hygiene. Itasca, IL: National Safety Council, 2002. Print.
“Danger Carbon Monoxide” artwork curtsy of mysafetysign.com