Carbon monoxide is often called the silent killer. It's not a big, bulky cloud of smoke that you can see. It's not a choking, dirty colored smoke that you can smell. It's not a sweet-, sour-, or bitter-tasting gas. In fact, our highly-sensitive senses cannot detect the colorless, odorless, or tasteless gas that is one of the deadliest threats in our homes. Unlike things like a gas leak, like propane or natural gas, that will likely make your eyes water and nose run, carbon monoxide is nonirritating and therefore gives no warning of its presence. In a few words, the silent killer.
Carbon monoxide is caused by the incomplete combustion of fuels being burned. This process produces a gas that fills the area of you home, garage, or outbuilding, endangering both people and animals as well.
Carbon Monoxide Threats in Garages and Out Building
In garages in homes, the internal combustion engines of automobile, generators, lawn mowers, snow blowers, etc... are blamed for many deaths every year. Let us not forget oil burners, wood burners, and portable heaters that use a variety of fuels to produce space heating. Ventilation in these areas are key to the release of these deadly gases.
Carbon Monoxide Threats in Homes
Sources of carbon monoxide threats in homes include natural and propane gas heaters, wood, corn and coal burning stoves, gas ranges, gas ovens, kerosene heaters, ventless gas heaters, and gas water heaters.
Vehicle Emissions...Are They Carbon Monoxide?
On average, a car burning one gallon of gasoline will emit about 2.9 pounds of carbon monoxide, being lighter than air, carbon monoxide forms and rises in the air. Without proper ventilation, it accumulates from the ceiling down.
The bluish-white gas exhaust fumes that you see and smell coming from the exhaust of your car, lawn mower, etc... are not carbon monoxide gas. You remember what I just told you, right? Carbon monoxide cannot be seen, smelled or tasted. The smoke you see being emitted is actually unburned oil and carbon particles and the odor is from the presence of aldehydes in the exhaust.
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms vary with the exposure and concentration of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream. The average adult human can handle a concentration of 100 parts per million (PPM) in the air without suffering ill effects.
Having said that, an exposure to 1,000 parts per million causes a minor headache, the first warning sign.
The second sign is a reddish color to the skin, showing a deprivation of oxygen. This is a dangerous warning sign and the victim to be should seek fresh air immediately!
Exposure of 1,300 PPM for one hour can cause the skin to turn a cherry red color. This is followed by a throbbing headache. Again, seek fresh air immediately and most of all, get out of the house, garage, or wherever you are and seek fresh air.
In a concentration of 2,000 PPM or more, it is likely that death or irreversible damage to the respiratory and nervous systems to those who do survive.
As you can see, the silent killer does give clues that it is effecting you, but you must know the signs. Anyone who feels any of these effects should take them seriously and move to a place of fresh air immediately. If in fact carbon monoxide was present, you should start feeling better after you move to fresh air, giving you a clear indication that indeed it may be carbon monoxide in you space. The introduction of oxygen to the system speeds recovery.
Rescue Personnel Warning
As a family member, neighbor, friend, or emergency personnel responder, great care should be taken when coming to the rescue of others in this instance. Never go alone! The same gasses that overcome someone, can also affect you. When entering the effected area, call and wait for backup. Upon entering the home, garage, etc... open doors and windows to replenish the oxygen supply and get your victim out of the effected area. Rescue teams usually work in teams of three and use an air-breathing apparatus. That's why my recommendation is to leave the rescue efforts to professionals who have the proper equipment.
Carbon monoxide asphyxiates or basically suffocates people by depriving a person's body of precious oxygen. Without oxygen, it is impossible for a human or pet to survive. This is known as tissue hypoxia.
There is a series of events that happen as the body takes in oxygen and disperses it throughout the body. Oxygen is inhaled into the lungs and transported throughout the body via the red blood cells. It is transported to body tissue and muscles. The unfortunate thing is that red blood cells are attracted to carbon monoxide and absorb it more readily than oxygen. Once in the bloodstream, carbon monoxide reduces the oxygen supply for vital body functions.
Those at most risk for carbon monoxide poisoning include infants and children. The young show signs far earlier than adults. That's why children should never be left alone in a vehicle with the engine running, besides other obvious reasons. Never, never drive a vehicle with a leaky exhaust or holes in the firewall or floorboards of a vehicle, where exhaust fumes can enter the vehicle. Having said that, simply leaving a window cracked in an enclosed garage can cause the same result. I advise adding a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide kills and it does it silently...The Silent killer!