the season of snow, ice, cold -- and carbon monoxide poisoning!
Clear, odorless carbon monoxide gas (CO) is a product of incomplete
combustion. The Canada Safety Council estimates that 200 Canadians
are killed by this gas every year, and more than 1,500 others
exposed to CO require medical attention.
A majority of CO victims succumbed to the fumes while in stationary
vehicles with engines running. Poor maintenance, obstructed
tailpipes and alcohol consumption are common factors in vehicular
Carbon monoxide poisoning is also a threat in the home. Clogged
air intakes for furnaces or water heaters and plugged chimneys
can lead to gas buildup. Propane refrigerators and burning charcoal
can also release dangerous amounts of CO.
The accompanying box describes symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning
and briefly outlines first aid procedures for CO victims. The
following pointers are important to protecting yourself against
1. In a vehicle
vehicles should be well maintained. Exhaust systems should
be checked regularly for holes, loose connections, or leaks.
A vehicle's body should be sound and free of holes through
which gas could enter. And remember, well-tuned engines
produce far less deadly CO gas.
and driving is a serious offense! Parking with the engine
running while 'under the influence' greatly increases potential
for CO poisoning.
sleep in a parked vehicle with the engine running. If you're
stranded and know you are likely to doze off, turn the engine
off. You'll wake up when it gets cold enough, and can then
run the engine for a few minutes to warm up.
parked were drifting snow may start to cover the tailpipe,
or when stuck in a ditch or snowbank, check frequently to
ensure that exhaust gases can escape easily.
leave a window open slightly to let in fresh air. Such ventilation
is a good idea when you are driving, and not just while
alert for early warning signs of CO poisoning, which include
headache and dizziness, slight nausea, confusion, and drowsiness.
If you feel any of these symptoms, get out of the vehicle
and into the fresh air until you recover.
leave children in vehicle while the engine is running, even
when you're just "going into the store for a minute".
leave engines running in a confined space -- such as a garage
or workshop -- without proper venting.
qualified, licensed service personnel should install and
inspect fuel-burning appliances, or convert such equipment
from one type of fuel to another.
fuel-burning appliances should receive an annual safety
inspection. The 'check-up' should include intake lines,
flue pipes, chimneys, etc.
use barbecues or other charcoal burning devices indoors,
because they release dangerous amounts of CO!
leave a vehicle idling in a garage which is attached to
or located beneath a home. Exhaust gases can enter the living
quarters, whether or not there are connecting doors.
extra care to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. CO is a silent
killer, and chances of exposure greatly increase as we seek
warmth during the winter months.
Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms and treatment
concentrations of CO can lead to a slight headache and shortness
of breath upon moderate exertion.
concentrations can produce a severe headache, confusion
and dizziness, impaired vision and hearing, and collapse
or fainting with exertion.
concentrations can lead to unconsciousness or death!
Move to fresh air immediately at the first indication
of any of the above symptoms.
If it is necessary to move an unconscious victim to the outdoors,
be extremely cautious before entering an enclosed area where
CO concentrations may be high. Open doors and windows for maximum
Keep the patient lying down and wrapped in blankets to maintain
body warmth until emergency help arrives. Rest is absolutely
essential. Under no circumstances should the patient be allowed
to walk after regaining consciousness. They should rest for
at least two hours, if possible.
In all cases where breathing has ceased, artificial respiration
must be applied immediately. A knowledge of some efficient method
of resuscitation is vital.
The information and recommendations contained in this publication
are believed to be reliable and representative of contemporary
expert opinion on the subject material. The Farm Safety Association
does not guarantee absolute accuracy or sufficiency of subject
material, nor can it accept responsibility for health and safety
recommendations that may have been omitted due to particular
and exceptional conditions and circumstances.
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in
NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in
NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder.