Sources Of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a very regular killer. It is known as the silent killer, because people often don't notice it is there and simply fall asleep never to wake up again. Before looking at the sources of carbon monoxide poisoning, it is important to understand just what carbon monoxide is. We will also look at the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Knowing and understanding the signs and symptoms has the potential to save lives.

What Is Carbon Monoxide?

When fuels - oil, gas, wood or coal - don't fully burn, they produce carbon monoxide. Other common products that produce this gas are cigarette smoke, running cars and burning charcoal. Carbon monoxide is often around people, because a lot of appliances in our homes use the common types of fuel and are therefore sources of carbon monoxide poisoning. Think, for instance, of your boiler or your gas fire, your central heating system or your water heater, as well as your cooker and an open fire you may have in your home.

What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

 Every year, some 60 people in the UK die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, and a further 800 or so get seriously ill from it. Besides understanding the sources of carbon monoxide poisoning, understanding the symptoms is equally important in order to prevent it. Essentially, by inhaling the gas, it mixes into our blood, which is toxic. The most common symptom is the development of a headache, which starts at mild poisoning levels. However, feeling dizzy, sick, or nauseous is also very common. As it progresses, people can actually become sick and vomit. People also feel very tired and confused and can develop severe stomach pains. At the latest stages, breathing may become difficult and strained. The symptoms are very common to those experienced with food poisoning or flu. The main difference, however, is that a fever or high temperature is absent with carbon monoxide poisoning.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Appliances

When household appliances have been installed the wrong way or haven't been maintained properly, they can start to emit carbon monoxide. Big culprits are heating systems and cooking devices. In fact, out of all the sources of carbon monoxide poisoning, this is the most commonly found one. So long as an appliance is fitted properly and regularly serviced and maintained, it will emit almost no carbon monoxide. Similarly, if an appliance is damaged, the levels of carbon monoxide can also rise above normal levels, which will make them very dangerous. Many people have a carbon monoxide detection dot next to their boiler, which is a potential life saver. A significant issue is that boilers are often stored in bathrooms or en-suite bathrooms, or anywhere else near sleeping quarters. As a result, this is often the most deadly source of poisoning, because people will sleep through their symptoms and die without ever waking up. Badly Maintained Appliance


Sources of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Flues and Chimneys

When flues and chimneys get blocked, they are no longer able to circulate air and carbon dioxide properly. Therefore, these are often sources of carbon monoxide poisoning. If the flue or the chimney is blocked, and carbon monoxide that is created through the burning of fuels in the fire is no longer able to escape, returning into the living environment and poisoning people. Although it is easy for these to build up to dangerous levels quite quickly, most people do detect this is happening as they will start to notice the symptoms.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Poor Ventilation

Whenever we burn fuel in a space that is poorly ventilated or enclosed, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning becomes very real. A good example that people will have heard of is the running of a car engine inside a garage. This has long been a way for people to commit suicide, by running a pipe from the exhaust into the car and keeping all the windows closed. Another example is a heating boiler that is faulty when placed in a kitchen with very poor ventilation. Did you know that if a car is placed in a closed garage and left running, the carbon monoxide gas will rise to lethal levels within just 10 minutes? This demonstrates how quick the silent killer is able to strike.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning - Paint Fumes

Paint fumes and fumes from household cleaning products are particularly dangerous. This is because many people actually enjoy the smell of them. Any product that contains methylene chloride (also known as dichloromethane) has the potential to cause carbon monoxide poisoning. This is because of chemistry: as we breathe in the methylene chloride, our bodies convert it into carbon monoxide.

As you can see, it is all too easy to be exposed to carbon monoxide. If you suspect that you may have carbon monoxide poisoning, you must immediately go outside into the fresh air and phone an ambulance. It does not take long for this gas to kill and time is of the essence. What is more important, however, is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Carbon monoxide dots are readily available at a low price - if not free - from various sources. These dots are simple stickers that you can place in strategic places across your home. Put one in each room, including your garage, and in particular next to appliances that have the potential to release carbon monoxide. If the dot changes color, this is an indication that something is going very wrong. If you can immediately detect what the cause is, switch that particular appliance off and ventilate the room as much as possible. If, however, you are unsure what the cause of the carbon monoxide is, leave your premises immediately and phone the emergency services. Remember that ventilation is key to reducing the levels of carbon monoxide, so open a window every once in a while, even when it is cold outside - or actually, particularly when it is cold outside, because this is when we have the tendency to keep everything closed.


Disclaimer: The information provided has been prepared as a guide only and the steps taken are likely to vary for different appliance models. We strongly recommend using a qualified engineer to undertake major repairs and fault finding.


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