You wouldn't willingly inhale a hefty whiff of tailpipe exhaust every morning after breakfast - you'd have to be crazy! But what if you were breathing something similarly toxic without knowing it? Carbon monoxide (CO) - a colorless, odorless, tasteless, deadly gas - is a byproduct from burning fuels. It is extremely harmful with cumulative, damaging effects.
What is chronic CO poisoning?
Chronic CO poisoning occurs when someone is exposed to CO for more than 24 hours, though it also refers to repeated low-level exposure. CO deprives the body of oxygen and damages cells with its toxin, which contribute to a myriad of potential long-term health problems later.
How can I tell if I'm being chronically exposed to CO?
You may never know you're being exposed unless you actively look for CO or get some positive verification for chronic exposure.
CO poisoning is often overlooked since CO is undetectable without instrument, and low levels might not trigger a CO detector. Adverse side effects from exposure may develop over months or years, worsening even after the exposure stops. Furthermore, symptoms of CO exposure are so similar to other types of illnesses that you (or even your physician) may misdiagnose them and miss the problem altogether.
Professional maintenance technicians, who test for improperly calibrated and malfunctioning appliances, are most likely to diagnose a problem. Sometimes, however, a whole household gets sick before anyone suspects CO poisoning.
Identifying chronic CO poisoning is notoriously difficult. Fortunately, it's much easier to prevent.
How can I prevent chronic CO poisoning?
Actively combat it! Chronic CO poisonings are caused by the same things that cause acute poisonings. Here's how you can stay proactive:
- Get all your gas-powered appliances and fireplaces checked annually by a qualified technician, or consider replacing fuel-burning appliances with electric ones. Malfunctioning gas-powered heating systems (furnaces, boilers, water heaters) account for somewhere around two-thirds of CO poisonings.
- Get exhaust systems on all vehicles, watercraft, and aircraft checked annually and after accidents (even minor rear-end accidents). Inefficient engine combustion, broken exhaust systems, and missing catalytic converters can produce large amounts of CO.
- Beware of potentially CO-saturated professions and places, especially if you are predisposed to CO poisoning. Some occupations (firefighting, welding, oilfield work) and some locations (parking garages, toll booths, auto shops) are more likely to have significant concentrations of CO or elevated background CO.
- Know your rights to a safe workplace. OSHA has air quality standards for CO, so don't be afraid to file a complaint if you suspect a problem.
- Keep CO detectors in your home and replace them when needed. CO detectors make the silent killer heard; they save lives.
- Get CO-smart. Learn the symptoms of exposure and educate the members of your household on CO and its hidden dangers. The more you know, the better you can protect yourself!
Have you been poisoned?
CO poisonings are preventable with due diligence, but sometimes people get CO poisoning through no fault of their own and face formidable life changes as a result. They don't have to face those changes alone or unaided, however.
If you or a loved one has been affected by CO poisoning, Wyatt Law Firm is here for you. Our personal injury attorneys have a passion for justice and have won our clients millions in compensation from CO poisoning cases. Call us at 210-255-2231 for a free case review, or contact us from our website.
You have a story to tell, and we can make you heard. Let us get you what you need to heal and rebuild.
Let us fight for you.
For more information on CO poisoning, explore our legal blog.
Helffenstein, D. A. (2008). Neurocognitive and Neurobehavioral Sequelae of Chronic Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: A Retrospective Study and Case Presentation. In D. G. Penney (Ed.), Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (pp. 495-549). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Penney, D. G. (2008). A Challenge to the Healthcare Community: The Diagnosis of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. In Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (pp. 437-448). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Penney, D. G. (2008). Chronic Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: A Case Series. In Carbon Monoxide Poisoning (pp. 551-567). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.