Does Colorado have a problem with CO? By: Holly Howell

Keywords: carbon monoxide, poisoning, exposure, prevention

Carbon monoxide, known as CO, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is slightly less dense than the typical composition of air, which is mainly oxygen and nitrogen [1]. Why do we need to know about carbon monoxide? It is because carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the most common forms of unintentional poisoning deaths in the United States [1]. It is also a high risk for homeowners and tenants, who may not be aware that their homes pose risks to them. It is important for social workers to advocate and provide education to those that may not be aware of the risks they may be exposed to.

danger

(Source: http://overchuck.com/carbon-monoxide-poisoning/)

The national average for emergency room visits related to carbon monoxide poisoning is 5 per 100,000, but in the state of Colorado the average is 9 per 100k [1], which is almost double the national average. Carbon Monoxide poisoning also accounts for 0.5 deaths in Colorado per 100k people [3]. From 1999-2004 there were 16,447 death certificates issued that listed CO poisoning as a contributor to their cause of death [2].

carb

(source: https://www.cdc.gov/features/timechangecodetectors/)

CO can be found in fumes produced from furnaces, vehicles, portable generators, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges, or burning charcoal or wood [3]. In enclosed spaces, such as homes or vehicles, it can build up to a toxic level and ultimately kill occupants if they do not seek medical attention [3].

It is important to recognize the signs of CO poisoning. In just minutes of breathing high level of CO it can cause serious illness and/or death, so early intervention and recognition is critical [4].

CO can be found in fumes produced from furnaces, vehicles, portable generators, stoves, lanterns, gas ranges, or burning charcoal or wood [3]. In enclosed spaces, such as homes or vehicles, it can build up to a toxic level and ultimately kill occupants if they do not seek medical attention [3].

It is important to recognize the signs of CO poisoning. In just minutes of breathing high level of CO it can cause serious illness and/or death, so early intervention and recognition is critical [4].

poisco

(Source:https://bostontrauma.wordpress.com/tag/carbonmonoxide/)

 

Boston Medical Center compiled a list of prevention tips for CO exposure and suggest to [5]:

•     “Do have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.”

•     “Do install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. If the detector sounds leave your home immediately and call 911.”

•     “Do seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseous.”

•     “Don’t use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, or garage or near a window.”

•     “Don’t run a car or truck inside a garage attached to your house, even if you leave the door open.”

•     “Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented.”

•     “Don’t heat your house with a gas oven.”

Remember CO is preventable and also treatable when early medical care is obtained. If you suspect that you or someone near you has CO poisoning get into fresh air immediately and call 911 [6].

References:

[1] http://environmental-health.healthgrove.com/l/6/Colorado

[2]https://ephtracking.cdc.gov/showIndicatorPages.action?selectedContentAreaAbbreviation=2&selectedIndicatorId=39&selectedMeasureId=

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/features/timechangecodetectors/

[4] Mikyong Meekie, S., & Sircar, K. (2016). Tracking Carbon Monoxide Poisoning to Better Understand How People Are Poisoned. Journal Of Environmental Health, 79(1), 28-30.

[5] https://bostontrauma.wordpress.com/tag/carbonmonoxide/

[6] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/carbon-monoxide/basics/treatment/con-20025444

 

Holly Howell (Grand Junction, CO)-Social work interests include: Hospice and Palliative Care, bereavement, anticipatory grief, aging, death and dying.

Favorite quote: “You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life.”- Dame Cicely Saunders

 

 

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