It’s Carbon Monoxide Season…

It’s that time of year. People have started to turn on their furnace or fire up that fireplace to get warm. Windows and doors are kept shut to prevent heat from escaping. Cars are left running to “warm up” before trekking out in the cold air. Gas stoves are burning more than usual as scrumptious family meals are cooked, and the added holiday treats are being created. These are normal routines for people in the winter months, especially us Coloradans. So what’s the big deal about it?

Well, we want to make sure you, your family and even your animals are safe this winter! In discussing your common winter rituals, we would like to warn you of the dangers of the toxic gas, Carbon Monoxide (CO).

It’s a common emission of gas.

You will not smell it. You will not see it. You probably are exposed to it every day and haven’t even realized it. In fact, Carbon Monoxide (CO) is produced from every fuel powered engine. There are also many other things which produce the carbon monoxide gas – have you thought about what those are?

Let’s start with the most common and obvious places you can expect some of exposure of carbon monoxide.

  1. Home (Yes…where you live and sleep. So this means, house, apartment, hotel room, rental, a basement (including your mom’s basement), or even a college dorm room)
    • All fuel/gas powered equipment produces carbon monoxide.
    • Space Heaters – unvented and gas space heaters – CO poisoning might occur if you don’t properly vent the area in which the heaters are placed, if you lock them in your bedroom and close the doors then it could cause you to be exposed.
    • Chimney/Fireplace – CO poisoning might occur if your chimney is damaged and not properly venting the air/smoke from a fire. If you leave the flue closed (you know you’ve done this when all of the smoke from the fire starts flooding into your house) can expose you to dangerous levels of CO.
    • Gas/Wood/Kerosene Stove
    • Hot water heater/boiler/furnace – CO poisoning might occur if these devices are poorly maintained, worn, corroded or not properly adjusted. Additionally, your appliances are supposed to be properly vented, so that any gas emitted from the appliances is safely moved outside of your home. A blocked flue, vent, improperly sized flue or vent, and a disconnected or leaking flue or vent can cause carbon monoxide gas to be filtered into your home.
    • WARNING. This is the most dangerous and commonly occurring generator of carbon monoxide gas leading to severe injuries and even death!
    • Generators – CO poisoning might occur if you place a portable generator inside your home, garage, basement, crawlspace or shed and even if you place it outside, near a window because generators (like a car) emit carbon monoxide when powered on. If you place a generator inside your home, you could be affected within minutes.
    • Auto Exhaust from attached garage (see Automobile)
  2. Your Automobile (i.e. your car, motorcycle, RV/camper)
    • Every fuel powered engine produces carbon monoxide.
    • If you start your car in the garage (with the door closed) you will likely be exposing yourself to a high level of CO.
    • If you let your car warm up/idle in the garage (with the door and windows open) you will likely be exposing yourself to a high level of CO.
    • If your exhaust pipe is blocked…even on a snowy day when you start your vehicle, you will likely be exposing yourself to a high level of CO.
    • If you are in traffic and sitting stationary in your vehicle, you usually are exposed to CO – if your vehicle is not properly maintained, then instead of being emitted into the air, you could find yourself breathing in the gas that’s being pumped to the inside of your car.
    • An RV/camper can produce carbon monoxide gas. It is important to be cautious when you’re all hanging out or sleeping in your RV/camper with the engine on. As mentioned above, being in a stationary vehicle can cause CO to travel right back into the RV/camper!
  • Have we got you thinking?
  • Do you want to prevent dangerous exposure to carbon monoxide?
  • Or, do you think you have been exposed and you don’t know what to do next?

Just reading that carbon monoxide gas can occur in your home and in your automobile in the first start. You are now “aware” of the gas, and where it can be produced. The next step is to prevent the occurrence of carbon monoxide exposure. Properly maintaining your home and vehicle is important.

Preventing a Leak of Gas and Exposure to Carbon Monoxide:

  1. Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector in your home.
  2. Make sure your appliances, furnaces, stoves, etc. are properly maintained.
  3. Get a yearly inspection of your furnace and hot water heater, including the venting system.
    • Call your local utility company for a free reading of carbon monoxide levels.
    • Call your local heating repair company to schedule an inspection of your furnace.
      The inspector should be specially certified to complete this task.
  4. If you rent your home, or apartment, ask your landlord when your home was last inspected for faulty appliances (including your water heaters, furnace, gas stove and fireplace). *Request an inspection if this hasn’t been done in the last year. *
  5. Clean out your fireplace. Have the fireplace and flue checked for leaks or other damage.
  6. Do not start your vehicle in your garage (even if the garage door is open).
  7. Do not use generators in your home, or close to windows.
  8. Check those space heaters. Do not close the heaters in a room where they are not properly vented.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Exposure:

Symptoms from carbon monoxide may include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. High levels of CO inhalation can cause loss of consciousness and death.

Symptoms of chronic poisoning…can include chronic fatigue, affective conditions, emotional distress, memory deficits, difficulty working, sleep disturbances, vertigo, neuropathy, paresthesia, recurrent infections, polycythemia and abdominal pain and diarrhea…other sequelae include gait and motor disturbances, peripheral neuropathy, hearing loss and vestibular abnormalities, and, dementia and psychosis, which can be permanent. (N.Engl.J.Med. 360;12 NEJM.ORG March 19, 2009, written by Lindell K. Weaver, M.D.)

How Carbon Monoxide Affects the Body:

Essentially there is no area of the body which cannot be affected by carbon monoxide poisoning – as the carbon monoxide molecules actually take the place of oxygen molecules, bind to red blood cells and are transported to every part of the body. The closest one can compare the symptoms of a carbon monoxide poisoning with is being a victim of a stroke, but a stroke only affects a limited are of your body.

The base treatment available for carbon monoxide poisoning is hyperbaric chamber treatment per the protocol as developed by Dr. Lindell Weaver. Hyperbaric Chamber Treatment involves placing the individual in a hyperbaric chamber to try and force through air pressure the release of the carbon monoxide molecules from the red blood cells. Carbon monoxide molecules attach to the red blood cell with a high chemical attachment and it is very difficult to break this bond, thus the hyperbaric chamber. As CO level increases in one’s blood the amount of oxygen supplied to the body decreases and the parts of the body such as the brain, heart, lungs, and nervous system are deprived of full oxygen levels.

Carbon monoxide, in addition to reducing oxygen levels, also causes an inflammatory process to occur. The inflammatory process happens as a chemical reaction to the carbon monoxide exposure and occurs in a cellular level. As an example, carbon monoxide interacts with neutrophils causing the nerve field to release oxygen radicals which then interact with nitrous oxide forming a substance called peroxynitrite. This is a harmful oxidizing substance which gets into essentially every blood vessel.

Carbon monoxide also affects white blood cells triggering them to release oxygen radicals. The white blood cells then get into other tissues other than the blood where they release oxygen radicals leading to adverse effects, including one called lipid peroxidation.

The point is – the carbon monoxide has multiple adverse effects which occur, in a cellular level, beyond just the lack of proper oxygenation.

What to Do if you think you have been Exposed to Carbon Monoxide?

1. Call 9-1-1.

2. Contact your Utility Company.

3. Get medical advice and treatment immediately.

Who to call for legal help

Shakeshaft-Gorman Law Firm, LLP handles carbon monoxide poisoning cases. We have experience in determining the cause of the CO poisoning leak, how the exposure could have been prevented and who the responsible parties are. We can help you recover money for your medical expenses, rehab treatment, lost income, and permanent injuries. Call Shakeshaft-Gorman Law Firm, LLP at 800-383-5886 for a free consultation.

**Shakeshaft-Gorman Law Firm, LLP has partnered with Colorado’s Energy Resource Center to donate Carbon Monoxide Detectors to those in need. Energy Resource Center (ERC) will place these Detectors in residences across Colorado Springs.

We hope this partnership will insure the safety of more families and animals across Colorado, and, make others more aware of the dangers of Carbon Monoxide.

Energy Resource Center (HEAP) is responsible for low income, no cost weatherization, insulation and furnace services throughout Colorado. To see if you qualify for aide and to get a free Carbon Monoxide Detector, contact Susan Parker at the Energy Resource Center, Telephone (719) 322-3082.

If you do not qualify for assistance, but want to help make others warm and safe this season please contact Susan Parker at the Energy Resource Center to send a money donation or donate a CO Detector.**