Good Morning Team!
Heating season is upon us and I thought I would share a little about the dangers of Carbon Monoxide (CO) and its potential for poisoning us. Not to be confused with Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – the stuff that makes our sodas fizzy – CO is an invisible, odorless, and tasteless gas that is produced as a by-product of burning solid, liquid and gaseous fuels. Things like cigarettes and cigars, camp fires, coal, gas or wood burning fireplaces and stoves, gas ranges and ovens, charcoal grills, propane, kerosene and natural gas heaters and furnaces, gasoline and diesel engines all produce CO. Even our own body naturally produces small amounts of CO which we exhale at every breath. CO is measured in parts per million or ppm. Healthy, nonsmoking individuals can exhale up to 2 ppm but these same people can have CO level exhalations of 3-15 ppm if they are sick with the flu, other chronic diseases, or have chronic low level exposures such as living with gas ovens. Those who smoke can exhale levels of 10-30 ppm with-in one to two hours of smoking and can attain levels of up to 999 ppm while they are!
CO is all around us and while no sense of panic here is required, we do need to be aware that in concentration, it can harm or kill. Since CO itself is undetectable to human senses, we may not even know we are being exposed. Low to moderate CO poisoning can present symptoms similar to the flu, but without the fever. Headaches, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness are all possible during exposure to these lower levels. Higher levels of exposure will cause progressively worse or more severe effects such as; mental confusion, vomiting, loss of muscular coordination or consciousness, and ultimately death. The severity of symptoms is directly related to the actual CO level being inhaled as well as the duration of exposure. Prolonged exposure to levels of between 1 and 70 ppm will not affect most healthy individuals. Those with heart conditions might see an increase in chest pain at the upper levels though. Most individuals exposed to levels between 70 ppm and 150 ppm for extended periods will likely develop flu like symptoms. Those exposed to levels 150 ppm or higher, even for relatively short periods of time, will begin seeing more acute and possibly life threatening effects. Every year, more than 200 people are unintentionally killed, and over a 1000 more are treated in the emergency room as a result of CO poisoning.
Following are some tips to help protect us from the possibility of CO poisoning:
Again, CO is all around us and is ultimately unavoidable in moderate quantities so no panic is required. We do, however, have to remain aware of allowing it to build-up to dangerous levels where we work and live. As in all things, awareness is a key component in our overall safety. Following the guidelines above provides for a good starting point.
Have a great week and stay safe!
Director of Facilities Services