As a colorless, odorless gas, carbon monoxide (CO) can be challenging to detect. Because of this, CO exposure is the leading cause of death due to poisoning in the United States. However, carbon monoxide deaths are entirely preventable.
Carbon monoxide can be found in fireplaces, furnaces, generators, stoves, and the fumes of vehicles. What's more, because it can be difficult to detect carbon monoxide using our senses of smell and sight, it can be leaking without you even knowing.
For this reason, it is important to know the symptoms of CO poisoning. When people breathe in carbon monoxide, it interferes with the blood's ability to transport oxygen. Mild carbon monoxide levels can cause a loss of concentration, dizziness, headaches, weakness, impaired vision, and fatigue. As CO levels increase, so does the severity of symptoms: rapid breathing, nausea, and chest pain. With higher levels and more prolonged exposure, people may become disoriented, lose consciousness, and die.
Carbon monoxide is a common industrial hazard due to the incomplete burning of material that contains carbon such as natural gas, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal, or wood. While blast furnaces, forges, and cook ovens produce CO, the most common source of exposure in the workplace is the internal combustion engine.
How Can You Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?
One of the simplest preventative measures you can take is to have your heating system, water heater, and gas, oil, or coal-burning appliances serviced every year by a qualified, licensed provider. Maintaining appliances and equipment that can produce CO will promote safer operation and reduce CO formation. McIntosh Corporation does this as part of our Preventative Maintenance service.
There are other preventative steps to eliminate carbon monoxide exposure in the workplace: