Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is the leading cause of fatal poisoning in North America. Exposure to high concentrations can result in death within minutes.

Confusion – a symptom attributable to exposure to this colorless, odorless gas – can prevent a person from realizing that his or her life is in danger.



Low concentrations – shortness of breath during moderate efforts; Slight headache; Nausea; fear of heights.

High concentrations – throbbing headache; Confused thought, dizziness; Visual and auditory impairment; Collapse or syncope as a result of an effort.

Very high concentrations – unconsciousness, coma; the death.

This feature article can be used as part of a discussion of safety outside the workplace for employees. At the heart, carbon monoxide is a danger in winter – when the ice is lifted, the windows are lowered and the heating system is purring.

Carbon monoxide is the product of incomplete combustion. Sources of carbon monoxide include engine emissions, heaters, natural gas, anything involving fire, and commercial chemicals (many of which are propane-based ). Carbon monoxide is known by various names: exhaust gas, fuel gas, carbon monoxide, coal gas or simply CO.

Any indoor workplace where engines are in operation is hazardous. Those who work in an area with fuel-powered machines are at risk of exposure to carbon monoxide, a deadly gas.

Workers in a confined space, such as a mine, may be exposed to CO. But beware, this gas can also be found in large buildings, as well as outdoors and in well ventilated areas. Emergency workers may also be at risk; Without a CO detector, they may not be aware of the danger before it is too late. Farmers lost their lives due to CO when they used a gas pressure washer inside a barn.

Workplace Safety California

Silent murderer

Since the CO is colorless, odorless and tasteless, it is almost impossible to detect it. The symptoms of oxycarbonate poisoning can be very vague, and involve many systems of the body. However, it is important to make a diagnosis right away.

The CO prevents the blood from absorbing oxygen from the lungs, and it poisons the red blood cells, thereby preventing them from carrying oxygen. If the body tissues do not receive a constant supply of oxygen, they will stop functioning. As for the brain, it is very sensitive to a lack of oxygen. The majority of early symptoms of oxycarbonate poisoning are due to brain dysfunction caused by lack of oxygen.

At high concentrations, carbon monoxide can cause tightness at the forehead, a headache, pulsating pains at temples, fatigue or dizziness. If someone stays in the contaminated area, they may experience more severe symptoms: nausea and vomiting, loss of strength and muscle control, an accelerated rate of breathing and a slower pulse, and then death. Exposure to a very high concentration of carbon monoxide can cause rapid fainting and death within a few minutes. Larger smokers are more at risk than non-smokers.

The reverse, ie the removal of carbon monoxide from the body, occurs very slowly (although the rhythm can be accelerated by breathing pure oxygen). This explains why the symptoms of oxycarbonate poisoning do not diminish after the victim has been brought to a well-ventilated place. The effects of a severe case of oxycarbon poisoning may occur during the recovery period. These include effects such as headache, dizziness, blurred vision, variable pain, loss of memory, lack of interest, confused thinking and tremors. Very serious cases of poisoning can cause pneumonia or permanent brain damage. There have even been reports of deaths from carbon intoxication after apparent recovery.

Carbon monoxide is classified as a potential hazard to reproduction. According to reports, women exposed to CO during pregnancy have higher rates of miscarriages, still births and low birth weight. In men, carbon monoxide can damage reproductive cells, and cause loss of power and abnormal sperm.

Carbon monoxide vapors are highly flammable and therefore present a danger of fire or explosion. Explosion hazards are found at certain concentrations of CO.



The best way to know if this deadly gas is present and to avoid a dangerous situation is to use a carbon monoxide detector in any work environment that could be dangerous.

Whenever possible, avoid operating fuel machines inside. If this is not possible, you can control or limit exposure to carbon monoxide by ensuring proper maintenance of potential sources of this deadly gas, such as furnaces and internal combustion engines. Always use a catalytic converter if necessary and provide good general exhaust ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide levels from exceeding the allowable limits

Always wear the right breathing equipment when performing work in a confined space where carbon monoxide may pose a hazard. Wear self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) or self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). When selecting a respirator, consider the gas concentration and the exposure time.


First aid

Immediately seek medical attention if anyone has symptoms of oxycarbon poisoning, such as severe headache, feeling dizzy and nauseous. Immediately transport victim to fresh air. Give artificial respiration if the victim does not breathe, and give oxygen if possible.

If you have to take the victim out of a contaminated area, wear an air-supplied respirator or self-contained breathing apparatus. Close any stop valve before venturing into a contaminated area.

Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas that must be handled with extreme caution. Workers at risk of exposure to this gas should be aware of the symptoms and sources. They must also know how to protect themselves, and what to do in an emergency.

This featured article is intended as a general supplement to current occupational health and safety programs. It is not recommended to replace a complete program with this article.




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