What is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon Monoxide, also known as CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that is given off when products containing carbon are incompletely burned. The gas is produced by many things we use every day: cars, trucks, small gasoline engines (lawn mowers, snow blowers), stoves, lanterns, gas furnaces and generators and water heaters. Such machines and appliances should be operated only in well-ventilated places so the carbon monoxide doesn't accumulate.
Carbon monoxide kills 500 people every year in the United States. This gas can affect otherwise healthy individuals, but can more seriously harm infants, people of all ages with lung or heart disease, or anemia.
According to www.emedicinehealth.com, carbon monoxide is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the United States.
How does CO Poisoning Happen?
If cars, trucks or other machines or appliances are run in a confined space the carbon monoxide builds up. CO molecules are smaller than oxygen molecules and are absorbed by the blood faster than oxygen. If there is sufficient CO in the air, the lungs will take in more carbon monoxide than oxygen. When carbon dioxide is breathed out, it is replaced by carbon monoxide instead of oxygen. In more scientific terms, it actually impairs the body's ability to carry oxygen to organs and tissues.
Carbon monoxide impairs a person's visual perception, and ability to exercise, pick things up with their hands, learn new information or perform more challenging tasks.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, incomplete combustion of fuels is more likely to occur where there is low air-to-fuel ratios in the engine itself. These conditions are usually more common in the winter when catalytic converters and other engine parts responsible for combustion operate less efficiently, or if cars or other appliances are not properly maintained or installed correctly.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The CDC reports that the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- chest pain