Every year in the U.S. more than 4,000 people are hospitalized and more than 400 die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.
In Vermont, winter is an especially risky time for carbon monoxide poisoning when buildings are closed and fossil fuels are burned for heat.
Carbon monoxide, or CO, is an odorless, colorless gas that is given off whenever fossil fuels are burned. Carbon monoxide is a poison, even at low levels, while carbon dioxide (CO2) is a normal part of the breathing process. Breathing high levels of CO can cause severe illness or death in a matter of minutes.
Every year in the U.S. more than 4,000 people are hospitalized and more than 400 die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. In Vermont, winter is an especially risky time for carbon monoxide poisoning when buildings are closed and fossil fuels are burned for heat. Improper generator use during and after storms when the power goes out is also a risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is breathing in too much carbon monoxide. Inhaled carbon monoxide enters the lungs, where it replaces oxygen in red blood cells and is then carried throughout the body. Symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to those experienced when there is too little oxygen in the air we breathe.
Symptoms can vary from mild (fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea) to severe (loss of consciousness and death). The exposure levels influence the recovery and the damage done to an individual. A person’s mental abilities can be impaired and there can be permanent brain damage.
Most people who survive CO poisoning recover fully. Studies have found, however, that 10% to 40% of survivors of severe carbon monoxide poisoning may have long-term health problems because of their exposure. Even minor and moderate cases of carbon monoxide poisoning indicate an underlying CO hazard in the patient’s home, work, or recreational environment.
Vermont Tracking data related to carbon monoxide poisoning includes:
- Emergency Department (ED) Visits for CO Poisoning
- Deaths from CO Poisoning
- Hospitalizations for CO Poisoning