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Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odourless, tasteless gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. CO is also potentially deadly. Once inhaled, carbon monoxide replaces the oxygen in the blood, slowly killing off cells and starving vital organs of their necessary fuel. In fact, exposure to a large enough dose of this toxic gas can kill within minutes.

Effects of carbon monoxide: How to tell if you’ve been exposed:
Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when a person is exposed to unhealthy amounts of CO. Whether the person has been exposed to a small amount for a long period of time, or a large amount in a short period of time, the results can have serious physiological effects. Some of the early effects of being exposed to carbon monoxide gas include headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and convulsions. Carbon monoxide poisoning can result in brain damage, heart problems, major organ dysfunction, memory and cognitive problems, and behavioural and personality changes.

What to do if you’ve been exposed:
If you or a co-worker notices any of the above symptoms while on the job, you may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. It is imperative that you take corrective action immediately. There are three basic steps to remember when dealing with carbon monoxide exposure:

  • Evacuate: Move the person affected by the carbon monoxide gas into an area with fresh air. Administer oxygen to the individual if a source is available. Contact medical help as soon as possible. If the person is not breathing, perform artificial respiration until medical help arrives.
  • Ventilate: It is necessary to ventilate the affected area in order to remove the toxic gas.
  • Investigate:  Contact a professional to come in and investigate the source of the carbon monoxide leak. Install a carbon monoxide detector in the building if one was not already in place.

Reduce your risk of carbon monoxide exposure:
Carbon monoxide related illnesses and deaths can be avoided using some basic precautions and a little vigilance. Industry workplaces should monitor carbon monoxide levels using electrochemical sensors in either a single or multi gas meter. Simpler CO detectors are also available for home or office space monitoring. Carbon monoxide detectors function differently than smoke detectors in that the alarm won’t sound immediately if a small amount of gas is detected. The detector will monitor the level of CO in the air, mimicking the uptake of the gas by the body. This design aims to prevent false alarms due to common sources of carbon monoxide (cigarette smoke, for example).