For those with mild Carbon monoxide poisoning, the symptoms are often flue-like and will include headache, dizziness, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion especially in the elderly. It is important to go to A&E for assessment and to determine oxygen saturation levels. Carbon monoxide can kill you, and if a person lapses into unconsciousness they may have seizures or worse never regain consciousness.
How Long Does it Take to Get Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
Because the gas is colorless and odorless, the onset can be quite gradual, and occur over an hour or more and many people get a bad headache and lie back to sleep it off compounding the problem. If you live in a house full of old appliances, and many older people do, it is important to have a portable carbon monoxide detector. Get your gas stove checked regularly, and increase ventilation in your home.
If you are taken to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning the treatment is 100% oxygen until the symptoms disappear and unfortunately this type of poisoning is common with 20,000 emergency room visits annually in the USA. Of course, instances increase in winter when portable generators are often used, and wood fires are burning often with little or no ventilation.
Carbon Monoxide History
The harmful effects caused by Carbon monoxide to the human body are considered due to its binding with hemoproteins, resulting in disruption to cellular operations and affecting gas exchange in the body. Tolerance to Carbon monoxide in a person is changed by several factors including general health, age, genetics, anemia, cardiac output, and other pre-existing conditions.
Carbon monoxide killed a lot of miners around the 1900s when they couldn’t easily identify it. In those days the miners would take a canary down the mine, as a canary has no tolerance to Carbon monoxide. If the canary died, the miners would leave immediately to avoid toxicity. Interestingly, the canary was only replaced by an electronic detector in 1986, less than 40 years ago!!!
The dangers of Carbon monoxide poisoning were highlighted in Italy in 1944 when a freight train containing illegal passengers stalled in a tunnel for over one hour. leading to the death of more than 500 people. This is interesting, as in this case, they appeared to die of poisoning quite quickly.
The levels of Carbon monoxide must have built up due to no ventilation in a freight train, not meant to carry people.
Rate of Onset of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Exposure to Carbon monoxide was measured in line with Work Health and Safety requirements. Exposure at 100ppm or greater is dangerous to health, and even an average of 50ppm over an 8 hour period should also be limited, as this level of exposure would make them sick if they stayed confined for 8 hours. So regular fresh air breaks were initiated and any symptoms meant removal from the area.
Any acute Carbon monoxide poisoning can affect vital organs like the heart and central nervous system, unfortunately, these symptoms resemble many viral infections so it is important not to ignore them, especially if the person is staggering around in a confused state, take them straight to the hospital.
Carbon Monoxide incident
The evidence shows just how important Carbon monoxide detectors are in the workplace, especially when the workplace is confined and crowded. In Australia, a group of tourists took a joy flight in an 8 seater Sea Plane to a Northern Beaches restaurant. On the return journey, the plane was in the air for 5 minutes when it plunged out of the sky and into a river everyone died. The Coronial details recently released found.
A very old plane that should have been decommissioned due to crucial cracks, had been painted over and refitted for the Summer season without any of the underlying defects being addressed. Consequently, Carbon monoxide was leaking into the cabin in large quantities.
The Coroner found that everyone on board would have been unconscious including the 25-year-old pilot. This is a horrible story, and leads many to ask shouldn’t pilots be issued with portable Carbon Monoxide alarms? The Coroner is still making recommendations, and many will be watching with interest to see what the final outcome is. ( 31 December 2017, Engine Fumes Responsible, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning).