Posted: 3/16/2015

Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs after inhalation of carbon monoxide (CO). Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and initially non-irritating.  Carbon monoxide gas is very difficult for people to detect and is best detected by a carbon monoxide detector.

Carbon monoxide is a product of incomplete combustion such as from wood smoldering in a wood stove or from soot build-up in a chimney.  It can alsobe caused by motor vehicles that run on gasoline or diesel especially in an enclosed space or caused by  heaters, tools, and cooking equipment that use propane and butane. Exposures at 100 parts per million (PPM) or greater is extremely dangerous to human health.

Symptoms of mild carbon monoxide poisoning includes light-headedness, confusion, headaches, vertigo, and flu-like effects.  Exposure to low levels of carbon monoxide can lead to depression, confusion, and memory loss. Exposure to high levels of carbon monoxide can lead to central nervous system and heart problems, and even death. Carbon monoxide can also have severe effects on the fetus of a pregnant woman.

Treatment of carbon monoxide poisoning consists of administering 100% oxygen or providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy at the hospital. 

Domestic carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by early detection with the use of household carbon monoxide detectors that are available at most hardware stores, online or at specialty fire supply shops.  All households should have at least one, properly installed carbon monoxide detector and the battery should be checked at least annually.

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