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Whatis carbon monoxide and why is it toxic?

Carbonmonoxide is a compound composed of one carbon atom and one oxygenatom. It is a very poisonous, colorless and odorless gas. Its toxicproperties come from its reactivity, as it, once it gets in thebloodstream by inhalation, combines with hemoglobin, a molecule that carries oxygen fro the lungs to the cells in our organism and carriescarbon dioxide in the opposite way. This prevents hemoglobin tooperate and causes suffocation.

Poisoningby carbon monoxide is very common as there are many sources of carbonmonoxide. But it can be prevented if you follow some precautionarymeasures.

Carbonmonoxide is produced by burning any fuel, if there is not enoughoxygen for carbon dioxide to be formed. It usually forms in smallquantities, but this could not be the case, or it can accumulate inclosed rooms over time. Possible sources of carbon monoxide areheating installations, furnaces, stoves that burn wood, or waterheaters. Leakage or poor ventilation in these devices or spaces wherethey are located can lead to accumulation of carbon monoxide andsubsequent poisoning. Running car engine in a closed garage is also acommon source of carbon monoxide.

Symptoms

Theearly symptoms of poisoning by carbon monoxide poisoning are similarto flu symptoms – dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, andirregular breathing. If these symptoms disappear when you go outsidebut reappear when you return to the enclosed space, carbon monoxidepoisoning is the likely cause of such symptoms.

Whatto do if you suspect or know that you are poisoned by carbon monoxide

Priorityis to leave the poisoned area immediately. Leave the room or thebuilding or the vehicle where you believe there is carbon monoxide.Once you are out, stay calm to prevent that little available oxygenin your blood to burn too swiftly. Seek immediate medical help.

Prevention

Inhome, install several smoke an carbon monoxide alarms. Periodiccleaning, reparation and tuning of the heating system and chimneys bya professional will help prevent accidental poisoning from homeinstallations. Check appliances, chimneys and vents for signs ofdecay, corrosion or blockage and inspect them yearly. Also, thefireplace and damper should not be closed before the fire iscompletely out. Make sure to keep rooms where there is a fire wellventilated, to ensure sufficient supply of fresh air, and thus oxygen,as well as removal of created carbon monoxide.

Agas kitchen oven should not be used to heat homes. Also, avoid use ofcharcoal anywhere indoors.

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