Carbon Monoxide poisoning is something people do not talk enough about. In addition to that, some people do not even know what the term means. Norrie McCathie, Ted Mellors, Thelma Alice Todd are names of just a few celebrities whose cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning. Therefore it’s important that we know about Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, its effects, and how to prevent it.
What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a combustible gas. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, and slightly less dense than air. It’s deadly to humans and other oxygen-breathing creatures. One carbon atom and one oxygen atom make up a molecule of carbon monoxide (CO). Silent Killer is the name given to carbon monoxide since it is colorless and odorless and has the capability to kill people.
What is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
In many nations, carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common kind of lethal air poisoning. When carbon monoxide builds up in your bloodstream, it causes carbon monoxide poisoning. The human body needs oxygen, but CO is useless to it. Carbon monoxide enters your bloodstream and combines with hemoglobin. CO binds to hemoglobin over 230 times more strongly than oxygen. Therefore, if CO is present, oxygen will be unable to enter the hemoglobin. As a result, some parts of the body do not get the supply of oxygen and die.
Every year, more and more people die from CO poisoning in the USA. There have been over 20,000 visits to the emergency room and nearly 4,000 hospitalizations in the year 2019.
Where is Carbon Monoxide (CO) Gas Found?
Volcanoes and bushfires are natural sources of carbon monoxide in the environment. Unvented space heaters in the house are the most common source of CO poisoning. The heating process of an unvented space heater is done with combustible fuel and indoor air. Instead of venting the gases outside, it vents them into the room. Therefore, when a space heater isn’t placed correctly or isn’t operating properly, it can discharge carbon monoxide. This depletes the oxygen supply. Additionally, CO is found in exhaust gases from:
- Small engines
- Gas ranges
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If you expose someone to CO, they may realize that something is wrong. Although they may not be sure what is causing it. In addition, the symptoms of CO poisoning become more severe the longer a person is exposed to it. A person may suffer the following symptoms within a few hours of being exposed:
- Blurry vision
- Extreme fatigue
- Loss of memory
- Eventual fainting
If the symptoms are minor, there is a good possibility that you will recover completely. Other signs and symptoms may appear weeks or months after breathing CO gas. These include difficulty with memory and coordination. Moreover, CO gas poisoning affects people more quickly if they have heart or respiratory difficulties. Pregnant women, infants, and children are the most vulnerable.
Prevention from CO Poisoning
- Keep CO detectors installed in your house to alert you if CO levels begin to increase
- Never use portable heaters or lamps while sleeping in confined locations
- Never cook with a charcoal barbecue inside
- Do not use compact gasoline-powered motors inside the house. For example, Lawn mowers, power washers, weed trimmers, snowblowers, chainsaws, and generators
The Balvano Train Disaster
The Balvano train tragedy was one of the worst railway disasters in history. It happened at Balvano, Basilicata, during the night of March 2–3, 1944. Almost 500 people perished from carbon monoxide poisoning. Many reasons contributed to the accident:
- Ignorance by railway authorities
- Low-quality coal, a lack of air in the tunnel
- Moist tracks
- Lack of communication between the locomotive drivers
- Delay in rescue attempts
All of this together led to the horrific incident that took away the lives of approximately 500 people. In other words, such is the toxicity of Carbon Monoxide gas, that it can take the lives of 500 people within a small matter of time.
Detection and Diagnosis of CO Gas Poisoning
We might be unknowingly breathing carbon monoxide on a daily basis. However, there are ways to detect if you have more carbon monoxide in your body than the healthy limit. In other words, there is a blood test to detect the amount of carbon monoxide in your body. One can measure (carboxyhemoglobin) COHgb levels in the blood to detect carbon monoxide in the blood and estimate the severity of CO poisoning. Carboxyhemoglobin forms when carbon monoxide combines with hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. The more the quantity of carboxyhemoglobin, the more is your exposure to carbon monoxide.
In conclusion, let us join our hands together to spread this information that can save someone’s life. Always try to ensure that people around you have CO sensors installed in their homes and offices. Share these tips to keep your loved ones safe and sound.