CO Poi­son­ing

Catron Courier - - News - by Sher Brown

Ac­cord­ing to the New Mex­ico Depart­ment of Health, dur­ing 2008-2013, there were 1163 emer­gency room vis­its, 151 hospi­tal ad­mis­sions, and 55 deaths among New Mex­ico res­i­dents due to un­in­ten­tional car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing. Na­tion­wide, there are 15,000 emer­gency room vis­its and 500 deaths from CO (car­bon monox­ide) poi­son­ing ev­ery year. Why is this hap­pen­ing?

It hap­pens be­cause there are no clear signs that this deadly gas is build­ing up around you. Car­bon monox­ide (CO) is called the “silent killer” be­cause you can’t see it, smell it, or taste it. It doesn’t ir­ri­tate your lungs. Yet it’s highly poi­sonous, and most ac­ci­den­tal poi­son­ings oc­cur in the home.

It hap­pens be­cause CO is gen­er­ated ev­ery time you start your car en­gine, light a kerosene space heater, start your oil or coal fur­nace, light your propane stove, or build a fire in your wood-burn­ing stove. It’s pro­duced by your gas hot wa­ter heater, your clothes dryer and your BBQ grill. Last, but not least, you breathe it in with cig­a­rette smoke, either by smok­ing or through sec­ond hand smoke. Ob­vi­ously, CO poi­son­ings are more com­mon in win­ter months. Sadly, nearly half of the vic­tims are sleep­ing when they are poi­soned, so they don’t even know.

At low lev­els of car­bon monox­ide, symp­toms of poi­son­ing may be con­fused with the flu. You may start to feel fa­tigued and per­haps short of breath. You may have a headache. It is quite pos­si­ble that your mo­tor skills will be im­paired.

With higher con­cen­tra­tions or pro­longed low lev­els, you may be­come nau­seous, dizzy, and have trou­ble think­ing. You might ex­pe­ri­ence chest pain. At very high lev­els, you will prob­a­bly lose con­scious­ness, be­come co­matose, or die.

CO bonds to the he­mo­glo­bin in your blood cells, pre­vent­ing oxy­gen from be­ing trans­ported to the tis­sues in your body. It also binds to myo­globin in your mus­cles lead­ing to ex­er­cise in­tol­er­ance. Chil­dren will suc­cumb more quickly than adults.

For­tu­nately, al­most ev­ery case of un­in­ten­tional CO poi­son­ing is avoid­able. Things to watch out for in your home

are: mul­ti­ple fam­ily mem­bers with pro­longed flu symp­toms, wood fires burn­ing slowly, ex­ces­sive con­den­sa­tion in the home, sooty stains near ap­pli­ances and pi­lot lights burn­ing orange in­stead of blue.

Of course, the eas­i­est way to avoid this, and at the top of the list, should be to in­stall a CO de­tec­tor. They are in­ex­pen­sive, and many come com­bined with a smoke de­tec­tor.

The rec­om­men­da­tion is to re­place your CO de­tec­tor ev­ery five years.

To pre­vent CO from be­com­ing a prob­lem in the first place, you should do the fol­low­ing:

1) Have a pro­fes­sional check and main­tain your fur­nace ev­ery year.

2) Never leave your cars

idling in the garage.

3) Have your chim­ney cleaned be­fore burn­ing a fire.

4) If you are run­ning a gen­er­a­tor, never run it in an en­closed space or near an open­ing (a door or open win­dow) that will put t he ex­haust into your home.

5) Do not use your propane stove to heat your home.

6) Make sure your home is well ven­ti­lated so there is al­ways a sup­ply of fresh air (such as at­tic vents, win­dows that are not too tightly sealed, or doors that can be opened to bring in a good air sup­ply).

This is one 911 call you shouldn’t have to make.

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