Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas produced by burning material containing carbon. CO poisoning can cause brain damage and, in severe cases, death. Because you cannot see it, smell it, or taste it, even at toxic or life threatening levels, it is considered a silent killer. Since so many deaths occur as the result of defective or poorly operated home heating devices, CO has been termed the “silent, cold weather killer.” According to eMedicineHealth, it is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, while all people are at risk for CO poisoning, certain groups — unborn babies, infants, and people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or respiratory problems — are more susceptible to its effects.
According to WebMD, the primary symptom of carbon monoxide poisoning is usually a headache, but other symptoms include dizziness, muscle weakness, nausea, and vision problems. Severe or long-term exposure to carbon monoxide may cause life-threatening symptoms, such as severe headache, convulsions, unconsciousness, and coma. Because symptoms of CO poisoning can mimic the flu or a number of other conditions with similar symptoms, diagnosis may be difficult. It is possible that a person with more severe poisoning may not even be aware of the seriousness of the condition because the exposure to CO may cause fatigue and confusion. If a person has symptoms of CO poisoning or if CO poisoning is suspected, first get her or him out of the polluted area, then call 911.
CDC recommends taking the following steps in order to prevent CO poisoning from home appliance use:
· Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year;
· Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters (catalytic) indoors, as they burn gas and can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper;
· If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator’s cooling unit, then have an expert service it in order to ensure that it is not giving off CO;
· When purchasing gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as the American Gas Association or Underwriters’ Laboratories;
· Install a battery-operated CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
If you or a family member has suffered injuries in connection with CO poisoning, please contact us on-line at Regan Zambri & Long or call us at (202) 463-3030 for a free consultation. If you would like to receive our electronic newsletter, please click here.