An invisible killer lurking in American homes and businesses will send more than 100,000 people to emergency departments across the country this year.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a tasteless and odorless hazard that can cause permanent damage even at low concentrations to people who breathe it in.
Once concentrations of the flammable gas exceed about 70 parts per million, especially if a person has been exposed for only two hours, certain symptoms of physical injury will manifest, ranging from relatively minor ones such as dizziness and confusion to permanent neurological damage and even death. .
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by staying current on appliance maintenance and installing detectors in the home. While the latter is highly effective, a small number of Americans have installed life-saving carbon monoxide detectors.
The first symptoms after just a few hours of low-level exposure tend to resemble those of the flu, but continued exposure can lead to permanent memory loss and confusion, as well as mood swings
Carbon monoxide is created when fossil fuels burn without enough oxygen. This can happen through gas-powered household appliances, but also through fires and clogged flues
What Are the Symptoms of CO Poisoning?
Signs of carbon monoxide poisoning often first present as flu-like symptoms, including headache, weakness, upset stomach and vomiting.
Early symptoms can also be mistaken for signs of food poisoning, as was the case of a young California couple who vacationed at a luxury resort in Mexico only to die in their hotel room from what they initially thought was CO poisoning. was caused by bad food. .
Dr. Albert Rizzo, Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association, told DailyMail.com, “Because it’s odorless and tasteless, it can be very insidious and people don’t often equate these types of symptoms with carbon monoxide poisoning.”
“They might think they have a virus or it’s the flu, maybe they just need better ventilated air, which they do, but then don’t make the connection that it’s carbon monoxide.”
More severe neurological effects will become evident after prolonged exposure – from days to months – to only low concentrations of the gas.
Continued exposure can lead to permanent memory loss and confusion. Humans have also experienced personality changes after exposure to CO.
Six weeks after the poisoning, over 40 percent of patients experienced higher rates of depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment.
Some people exposed to concentrations around 150 to 200 parts per million may notice some movement and gait problems similar to those experienced by Parkinson’s patients.
A 2002 review published in the magazine European neurology reported that of 242 patients with CO poisoning studied between 1986 and 1996, nearly 10 percent experienced parkinsonism after an average of four weeks after the poisoning.
The most common symptoms were difficulty walking and walking normally, impaired thinking, urinary incontinence, inability to speak, muscle stiffness.
How do you get CO poisoning?
Carbon monoxide is created when fossil fuels burn without enough oxygen.
Inhalation of exhaust fumes from cars or lawnmowers is a major cause. But people are also vulnerable to poisoning in the safety of their homes, especially if they live in smaller spaces.
Dr. Rizzo said: ‘Unfortunately, even malfunctioning household appliances, stoves, ovens, kerosene heaters, if not properly ventilated or not working properly, will produce more carbon monoxide than they should.
“If this is a poorly ventilated area, it will build up and reach levels that will cause the symptoms.”
Gas stoves and appliances such as dryers emit toxic CO. Faulty water heaters can also emit dangerous amounts of CO if not maintained.
A study found that as much as 51 percent of the gas stoves examined, the CO concentration in the room increased above the EPA standard of 9 ppm, while five percent had carbon monoxide levels above 200 ppm.
How can it be avoided?
CO poisoning is completely preventable, but it is deadly about 420 Americans and sends more than 100,000 to the emergency room each year.
Anyone who believes they’ve been exposed to carbon monoxide should seek fresh air immediately, experts say. Something as simple as opening the garage door before starting the car can be a life saver.
Exposure is especially dangerous for older adults with certain pre-existing health conditions, including chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems. Infants and unborn babies are also extremely vulnerable. CO poisoning significantly increases the risk of fetal death and developmental disorders.
Homes should also be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, which are small devices similar to regular smoke detectors.
CO detectors can save lives, but only she has a lack of American homes. While nearly 98 percent of emergency room patients surveyed in the summer of 2011 said their homes were equipped with smoke detectors, only 44 percent said the same about CO detectors.
Low-income households in which residents earned less than $26,000 a year were the least likely to have a CO detector in or near their sleeping area, the ideal place to have them.
In addition, minority groups, renters and city dwellers were also much less likely to have CO detectors in their homes for a variety of reasons, including cost barriers and a lack of awareness about the importance of installing a pair.
Dr. Rizzo said, ?Things like carbon monoxide monitors and detectors should be readily available to individuals on every floor of the house. I know it’s a cost factor. These are relatively inexpensive, but not everyone can afford two or three carbon monoxide monitors in their home.
?But that’s why it’s so important to be aware and think about using a monitor, especially if you use a lot of these gas-powered appliances in your home and aren’t very well ventilated.