Carbon monoxide can poison a person within minutes and causes more deaths than any other poison. Part of its danger is that we cannot see, taste, or smell it.
On October 15, this space talked about carbon monoxide vs. carbon dioxide, and this post is following up with some questions about carbon monoxide (abbreviated as CO).
What fuels will produce CO in a home appliance?
Gas is often cited as the dangerous fuel and switching to electricity is recommended. Gas stoves are still commonly used, as are gas water heaters. But any fossil fuel can produce carbon monoxide, and that includes:
- Oil, as in many central heating systems
- Propane (LPG), as in camping stoves and free-standing room heaters
- Coal and wood, as in fireplace fires
- Kerosene, as in kerosene stoves
Home appliances do not automatically produce CO — it happens only when the appliance is defective or not operating properly, or when the room is insufficiently ventilated to maintain its oxygen supply. Whatever causes insufficient oxygen for the appliance will cause it to produce CO. All fuel-burning appliances need to be checked annually by a qualified technician before winter sets in and we start keeping the doors and windows closed.
How does CO cause harm in the body?
When it is breathed in, the CO is absorbed by the lungs and from there enters the bloodstream. It is not fully known how it affects the body, although it is known to bind readily with hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that contains iron and transports oxygen). Its affinity with hemoglobin is 230 times stronger than hemoglobin’s affinity with oxygen. In other words, it replaces oxygen in the blood.
That is why an anemic person, who already has insufficient red blood cells, is more susceptible to CO poisoning, and why anyone with respiratory problems (that is, a problem with getting oxygen into the blood) is also more susceptible.
By reducing the amount of oxygen carried in the blood, CO damages the brain, often permanently, and may prevent it from continuing its commands to the heart to beat. That, in turn, causes heart failure and death.
Later this week this space will conclude its discussion of carbon monoxide with a post about CO symptoms and treatment.
If you or a loved one have been harmed by carbon monoxide poisoning and would like to know more about possible legal options, please contact our personal injury lawyers today for a free case review. We serve the entire Mobile, Alabama area.