Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly poison – colourless, non-irritating and odourless. Apart from causing death, over 10% of survivors are left with a brain injury. The traditional view of carbon monoxide poisoning – the production of carboxy-haemoglobin preventing access of oxygen to cells – gives an incomplete picture of the toxicology. Evidence as to best treatment is unclear, so prevention is of great importance. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common industrial poisoning in the USA – from the use of things like forklifts and concrete cutting saws and compressors in buildings or semi-enclosed spaces such as garages. It can be deadly even when ventilation appears adequate.
Carbon monoxide monitors – both ‘personal’ and ‘general air’ – are available but should only be used to signal the need to immediately exit a confined area.
- elimination of fuel-powered motors in confined spaces
- placement of fuel-powered motors away from air intakes
- learn the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, nausea, weakness, dizziness, visual disturbance and loss of consciousness.
- look out for workmates.