Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that is colorless, tasteless and odorless. In low concentration, its effect resembles other more common ailments such as the flu, a cold, drowsiness or even mild depression. Diagnosis of carbon monoxide poisoning is often delayed or even missed because of this fact.
The effects of carbon monoxide poisoning may also result in subtle damage to the brain, heart, and other organs and tissues. Oxygen, which is necessary for survival, is transported from the lungs to all of the body's organs via the bloodstream. It is carried in the protein hemoglobin and unfortunately, the blood hemoglobin has a greater chemical affinity for carbon monoxide than for oxygen. In other words, given exposure to carbon monoxide and oxygen, the hemoglobin will prefer to "pick up" the carbon monoxide and not the oxygen, thereby inhibiting the ability of the blood to carry oxygen. As the oxygen is prevented from reaching the necessary organs and tissues, the end result is asphyxiation from carbon monoxide.
(Percentage of Hemoglobin)
|Usually no sign
|0 to 10%
|Headache, angina in heart patients
|10 to 20%
|Throbbing headache, dizziness, irritability, difficulty concentrating
|20 to 30%
|Severe headache, dizziness, fatigue, confusion
|30 to 40%
|Rapid breathing and heartbeat, fainting
|40 to 50%
|Respiratory failure (collapse), seizures (collapse)
|50 to 60%
|Severe respiratory failure, low blood pressure, fatal coma
|60 to 70%
|Rapidly fatal coma
Betsey Belanger had come to the City of Albany, New York, from Long Island to share the joys of Thanksgiving holiday with her family. Shortly after midnight on the day after Thanksgiving, Belanger was declared dead on arrival at Albany Medical Center Hospital (AMCH), a victim of the most insidious killer - carbon monoxide. Belanger was one of more than 4,000 individuals who die of carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States each year. Additionally, at least 10,000 others sustain injuries from this cause, as did three other victims in the Albany Thanksgiving incident. They were treated at AMCH and transferred to Bronx Municipal Hospital, where a hyperbolic chamber was available for removals of high levels of carbon monoxide from their blood.
In Belanger's case, the cause of the carbon monoxide accumulation was traced to a chimney that served a gas water heater and furnace. The chimney had become blocked with debris flaking from its interior. Evidence from the case indicated that the chimney had neither been recently cleaned nor checked.
It is well-documented fact that the installation of a gas-burning appliance vented into an existing masonry chimney can lead to spalling of the interior of the chimney and dislodgement of carbon deposits and masonry materials, which then fall to the base of the chimney and accumulate there. Such accumulations can ultimately block the venting system, resulting in release of carbon monoxide within the area being heated. This scenario accounts for many of the nearly 4,001 fatalities that occur each year from carbon monoxide poisoning.
As noted in the "Boca" March/April Issue 1993
The Building Official and Code Administrator Magazine
Chimney sweeping is the best way to prevent chimney fires, eliminate carbon monoxide from entering your home or office. We inspect for birds nest and blockage hazards. Your heating system will run more safely.
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