A Complete Guide To Carbon Monoxide:
What It Is, Why It’s Dangerous, And How To Protect Yourself Against It
Carbon monoxide is an extremely dangerous gas that has been responsible for several fatal deaths over the years. For example, in February of 2017, carbon monoxide was responsible for the deaths of three family members in New South Wales. Now, carbon monoxide is hardly obscure, and most everyone knows that it is dangerous. But, not everyone knows crucial information like why it is dangerous and what the symptoms of carbon monoxide poising are. So, to help educate everyone about the dangers of carbon monoxide, we created this comprehensive guide, where we will cover what the gas is, why it is dangerous, what the symptoms are, and what you can do to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning.
What is carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a gas. At a chemical level, it is composed of one carbon and one oxygen molecule (thus the name, carbon monooxide). Normally when something organic is burned and there is a good supply of oxygen, the result is carbon dioxide. However, when organic material is burned and there isn’t enough oxygen, it results in carbon monoxide being produced. It is actually produced naturally in the environment, but it is in such small quantities that it doesn’t pose any harm to humans. The danger comes when it is produced in high quantities.
How is it toxic?
Oxygen binds with your blood cells, which then takes the oxygen to the different parts of your body. The problem with carbon monoxide is that it takes the place of the oxygen in your blood stream, meaning your body slowly gets less oxygen. As you are exposed to more and more carbon monoxide your body has trouble getting the oxygen it needs to survive. Eventually, you die from oxygen deprivation.
Why is it so dangerous?
The main danger of carbon monoxide is the fact that it essentially gives no indication that it is in the air. It has no taste, no smell, and no colour. This means that your normal senses (touch, smell, and sight) can’t be used to detect the gas. This is why carbon monoxide is sometimes referred to as the “silent killer.”
Where does it come from?
As we mentioned earlier, carbon monoxide can be traced back to combustion. So, the most common sources of carbon monoxide include ovens, furnaces, water heaters, etc. Large amounts of carbon monoxide are also produced during a fire, which is why during a fire you have to limit the amount of smoke you inhale.
What are the signs that there is carbon monoxide in the air?
While humans can’t detect carbon monoxide with their usual senses, people will begin to suffer symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning which will warn them that carbon monoxide is in the air. The only problem is that not everyone knows the symptoms of carbon monoxide and even worse, the symptoms associated with carbon monoxide poisoning can easily be mistaken for symptoms of other conditions. The first sign that carbon monoxide is in the air is persistent dizziness and headaches. These symptoms will appear within 10 hours of exposure. The next major symptom to watch out for is nausea. If the exposure to carbon monoxide continues, then the symptoms will get progressively worse, and eventually, people will start to suffer from loss of memory, convulsions, heart attack like symptoms (shortness of breath, pains in the chest, etc.), and loss of coordination. Eventually, the person will fall unconscious and will die within a few minutes.
Now, you may be wondering how to tell if the symptoms are caused by another condition or carbon monoxide poisoning. Unfortunately, there is no concrete way to tell if the symptoms are being caused by carbon monoxide poisoning or not, but there are a few strategies you can try. First off, try leaving the house, do you notice that the symptoms disappear after an hour or so of fresh air? If so, that’s a good sign that you are dealing with carbon monoxide poisoning. Were children or elderly members of your house complaining of the symptoms before you were? If so, this is a good sign that you are dealing with carbon monoxide poisoning, since it affects young children and the elderly before anyone else.
What to do if you are exposed to carbon monoxide
The absolute first course of action if you think are suffering from carbon monoxide is to leave your house and call the proper authorities. Treatment for carbon monoxide exposure will depend entirely on the length of exposure. If someone has only been exposed for a few hours, then they will not require any serious medical attention. If they have been exposed for much longer, they will be given an oxygen mask. As they breathe in fresh oxygen, the oxygen will displace the carbon monoxide and the symptoms will start to recede. If someone has collapsed due to carbon monoxide poisoning, you need to be extra careful, because if you try to rescue them, you could end up passing out yourself (in fact, this is something that happens to some first responders).
How to protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning?
There are two things you need to do to protect you and your family from carbon monoxide poisoning. First off, make sure your carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. If you feel like they are not, you need to either get them checked out ASAP or get new ones installed. The second thing you need to do is perform regular checkups on any appliance that can release carbon monoxide. So, appliances like ovens, water heaters, fireplaces etc., need to be regularly checked to ensure that they are not leaking. If you have functioning carbon monoxide detectors installed and you do regular checkups to make sure your appliances are not leaking carbon monoxide, then you can rest easy knowing that you and your family are protected.
Hopefully, you found this guide informative, and if you didn’t already, hopefully, you now understand how dangerous carbon monoxide is and why you need to take steps to protect yourself.