• The Silent Killer – Carbon Monoxide

Every year, we hear of at least one unfortunate incident linked with carbon monoxide poisoning whether it was a leak in the home or a lack of proper safety measures at work. According to statistics, between 2000 and 2009, 380 people died due to accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in Canada. It’s not difficult to see why considering it’s a colorless and odourless gas that is created whenever fuel such as kerosene, gasoline, acetylene, wood or propane is burned.

Improper ventilation and exposure to carbon monoxide in low levels result in headaches and dizziness at the least whereas high levels can lead to death in a few minutes.

In this blog, we highlight a few dangers of carbon monoxide and the steps you can take to reduce or completely mitigate its harmful effects.

How it Affects the Body

Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen to anyone but experts state that people with heart diseases, chronic bronchitis, anaemia, emphysema or any other respiratory problems are particularly vulnerable and even small amounts of exposure to the deadly gas can result in serious health issues.

Carbon monoxide enters the bloodstream through the lungs when inhaled, and attaches itself to red blood cells. The haemoglobin in these blood cells is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body but instead of carrying oxygen, carbon monoxide molecules attach themselves to the cells preventing the supply of oxygen to the brain, heart, and other organs. Continuous exposure starves the body of oxygen whereas prolonged exposure can lead to death in under five minutes.

Exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide over a long period of time can lead to permanent brain and heart damage. Each year, more than 50 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning in Canada, with an average of 11 in Ontario.

Minimizing the Risks

You can be exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide by:

  • Blocked heating exhaust vents
  • Blocked chimneys
  • Building or house fires
  • Poorly maintained heating equipment
  • Blocked or faulty car exhausts
  • Paint fumes
  • Smoking shisha indoors
  • Burning fuel in an enclosed space without proper ventilation

You can minimize the risks by taking the following steps:

  • Do not place generators indoors or in enclosed spaces such as a garage or basement. If there’s no other option, make sure windows and doors are opened to prevent a build-up of deadly CO.
  • Space heaters and stoves should be maintained in a good condition to reduce CO build-up.
  • Using power tools that rely on compressed air or electricity.
  • Installing high-quality CO detectors.
  • first aid training

Common symptoms associated with exposure to carbon monoxide gas include headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, and difficulty in breathing. Our health safety program and first aid training courses in Vancouver, BC will enable you to identify the symptoms of CO poisoning and take quick and effective measures to prevent serious health injuries. Contact us today!

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